One by one, Princess Star doused the candles in her room. Once her eyes had adjusted to the starlight she crossed the broad expanse of floor to the tall casement windows. She had to hang on the latches to release them, and then it took much of her strength to push the windows open. They were over twelve feet tall! The room itself was thirty feet wide and sixty feet long. Too big! she thought. The rug next to her bed could cover a house. Star hated it, but what could she do? She was a princess; it came with the territory. And the room did have its compensations. One of her favorite things was sitting on the wide ledge of the casement window—with a few pillows it was as comfortable as a couch. And her room was on the top floor. From this lofty perch Star could see a hundred feet down into a small courtyard. That was where the horses were exercised, usually in the afternoon. That was where deliveries arrived; wagons pulling up, whips cracking, mules stamping, horses snorting, drivers joking; the castle staff running like ants, everyone laughing in fine weather, hunched and miserable in the rain; rolling big barrels of beer and wine, toting sacks of grain and flour, smaller hogsheads of brandy; kegs of nails, jeroboams of piccalilli, flats of apples, and dried fruit, salted beef, smoked fish, six kinds of sausages and marshmallows shaped like fish. (Everyone in Eulalia toasted marshmallows. It was practically a national pastime.) The delivery entrance was a constant merry-go-round of bustle and haste.
When Star looked out from her window she could see across the castle’s battlements, to the rooftops of Delia, to the Great Forest and beyond. Sometimes she could even see the Black Mountains, a jagged blue-gray line that defined the edge of her world. And if she looked out at night (as she was doing now) Princess Star could see an infinity of stars filling the velvety sky with their cheerful twinkle. They made her feel happy and protected. She told them all her secrets.
When King Bernardino poked his head in he found his daughter wrapped in a cloak, sitting on the window ledge, lost in the night sky. Star didn’t say a word until her father had secured the door (another of his rules: spies) but as soon as it clicked she asked, “How’s William?”
“There is no change,” said her father. “He breathes, but does not move or speak.”
“What does Doctor Ell say?” asked Star.
“That he will awaken in good time. Ell claims to have seen this before, an injury to the head causing this strange sleep.” Bernardino passed his hand across his eyes. “But the people…”
“Yes?” said Star, pitying her father.
“…the people say that William has been enchanted. That Eulalia has been cursed.”
“The people say since William’s accident the sacred springs have not cured anyone. Not a soul.” Bernardino looked old and worn. “The priests concur. Our sacred spring is now just water.”
“Oh, Father!” Star threw her arms around her father, hugging him tightly. She always remembered that moment, how he stood like a pillar and would not be comforted.
“What can we do?”
“The priests have received a prophecy.” King Bernardino took a scroll out of a clever little pocket sewn into the sleeve of his robe (sewn by Robin, actually) unrolled it (with a bit of pomp, but not much circumstance) and read the following lines (minus the postscript; he was saving that to tell Star in person):