Royal City, the centre of our little country has always been the place where the honourable and highly respected royal family lived in their magnificent mansion. The Crystal Castle, as most people called it, was placed on an enormous cliff, in a commanding position above the sea.
Each year, for only one day, the castle was opened to the nobility, being invited to a ball, to celebrate the long lasting reign of the family and the prosperity of our country as well.
Once, a young lady, who came from distant lands, was also invited to the party. Her name was Carmine. When she arrived, two identical doormen opened the huge wrought iron gates, and soon led her to the ball room.
At the time she stepped into the room, a view, she had never seen before, petrified her. The walls were covered with silk in different colours, and only a few candles lit the room poorly. But what she was most amazed by, was the people she saw in front of her. At first sight, they all wore classical ball gowns, and masks covered their faces and strange clothes that seemed to be heavy to wear. They were made of a strange fabric that glittered whenever they turned round and back to the rhythm of the music the band played. At first, all looked like if they had not been coloured but during their movements their outfits glittered in different colours, as if they were crystals, depending on from which side she looked at them.
The dance they performed was also something unusual to Carmine. Their movements were classical but halting at the same time. Carmine was just standing there alone, a little ashamed of her regular gown, watching the myriad of different colours moving. Suddenly, a young man appeared before her, and stretched his hand out to invite the lady for a dance. Carmine did not say anything, only nodded. A few minutes later they were already moving along with the crowd. The man was so good at this kind of dance that they really melted into the scene. After the song ended the couple went out to the balcony where the man gave a flower, deep red like blood, to the lady. Without words, she took the flower and put it under her dress. She did not realise that a thorn cut her finger and a little drop of blood left a stain on the marble floor.
Not long after the ball, Carmine got married to the young man, the son of the royal family. They raised their four children in extreme wealth and kept holding their marvellous balls each year. Carmine’s maids always dressed her tight clothes to hide every little flaw of her body. In the beginning she did not like these clothes but everyone in the court stuck to the rule of ultimate perfection.
As years passed, Carmine got used to and even liked those inconvenient clothes. She got used to them so much that she did not put them off even when she went to bed, despite she could not sleep well anymore. Her hair was decorated with her diamond crown, the crystals of which slowly crept down to her face and connected to her mask that she also wore every single time.
Day by day she marvelled looking at herself in the mirror. Her beauty was known worldwide, „The Crystal Queen” people started to refer to her by this name because of her shining beauty. But sometimes, her reflection in the mirror seemed to be someone completely different, as if she was looking at a stranger. Though the reflection copied Carmine’s every little movement like a slave, the woman who lived in the mirror, had her long, ink-black hair flatter, and her ocean blue eyes were not covered by make-up, nor mask. Her dress was a simple, white nightgown, and she had no shoes. She very was familiar to Carmine, though she could not remember where she could have seen this girl before.
But one day, the reflection, independently of Carmine, placed her palm on the glass of the mirror and started to speak. Carmine could not hear any of the reflection’s words. The girl seemed to be terrified and desperate and the queen tried to read her lips, in vain. Later, the reflection moved on her own more frequently. By that time, Carmine hardly slept and ate, and still did not know who that scared girl in her mirror was.
Long time passed when the Queen realised that, although the girl could be noticed easily, from the room that should also have been reflected, could not be seen anything. No furniture, no lights, only the girl and darkness. And one more thing; stalks. After a deeper look, Carmine noticed that heavy and thick stalks writhed around the reflections neck and arms, as if they were trying to trap her. Then, for the first time, Carmine got frightened by the mirror. Maybe there was a reason why the girls was imprisoned there, she thought to herself. But, no matter how hard she tried she could not remember whether the girl had been there when she moved to the castle. Nor the mirror. She was unable to remember any of them.
During nights, the Queen’s sweet dreams were not only disturbed by her clothes but also the knocking of the girl in the mirror. The harder she tried to ignore her, the harder the reflection thumped.
Soon, the Queen gave birth to her fifth child, a little girl. On that night, she stepped to the mirror, and as she had seen it from the girl, she placed her hand on the cool glass of the mirror. The girl, after a few seconds copied Carmine. Their palms seemingly met, however Carmine felt the girl is far away from her. She saw her unreachable.
Their glance met, and for the first time the same emotion reflected in both pairs of the ocean blue eyes; despair. All of a sudden, the glass of the mirror, under their palms, cracked. Carmine stepped back led by fear, she did not know what happened. At that time, the reflection grabbed something unnoticeable from behind her back and threw it towards the mirror. Sharp and searing pain flew throughout the Queen’s whole body. This time, it was her turn; her expression was the perfect copy of the reflection’s look. All over the crown and mask of the Queen cracks appeared and soon on her dress and body as well. Then, the stalks that had been restraining the reflection, slowly slackened and disappeared in the darkness. The mirror shattered into pieces. The reflection stepped out of the mirror but it was as dark as her prison was. She was scared and could only think of that all of her efforts were in vain. She looked around but could not see any escape. As she took a few steps forward in the darkness, something stung her feet. She stepped on the remains of Carmine. All of a sudden, beginning from the pile, the floor and the walls started to crack and everything shattered just like a piece of ordinary and cheap glass. The moonlit night sneaked in the room bringing the pleasant summer breeze and the scent of the ocean with itself. Now, for first in a long time, the reflection could breathe. Finally, she also could feel her limbs and body that was vibrating.
She already could hear her servants and possibly his husband, the king, approaching the place of the disaster. She gently put her new-born baby in her arm, went out to the half-demolished balcony and threw herself in the depths. It was a silent night, only the rumble of the sea could be heard.
The next day Royal City was buzzing loudly with the case of the death of mother and child. Some of them told about an in-labour death, others said it was the king, who killed them both and according to the rest the whole story was a well-constructed lie. But the truth remained within the walls of the castle. After the incident, the king became more engaged in his work letting their children be raised by the staff of the mansion.
The vessel was rolling on the torrents, and a little girl was running on the deck chasing some birds that were flying around there. The woman, who was taking care of her, with something unrecognizable in her hand stood by the rail, marvelling at the reddish scenery of the rising sun, when that thing stung her finger. It was still as sharp as on that night even after those many years, she smiled. ‘The Crystal Queen is dead.’ And she dropped that thing, along with her brilliantly shining, but scattered mask, into the sea.
Sarah was touched by Grandma’s story. She did not only understood the moral of it, but something started to bother her that has never popped into her mind before. Without thinking she said,
“You are Carmine, aren’t you?” Asked confidently as if she already knew the answer.
“Who knows?! It was such a long time ago” the answer was faint.
“And you also met the Viridians” this was not a question anymore.
“Why do you think it so?” Grandma was really surprised, but Sarah did not know what exactly surprised her.
“My leg” she started. “On my first day here you healed my ankle within minutes. It’s impossible, it was broken I could feel it!” And then she said what she had suspected for a long time. “You did it with magic, only the Viridians knew, didn’t you?” The old lady remained silent, instead of words her shining eyes and kindly smiling lips answered.
“What would you like to do, Dear?” Her voice was full of pure love.
“I want you to teach me magic!”