In the land of humankind, turmoil bubbles in the kingdoms, with The Fool and The Princess none the wiser. Through the magic of their union, they've entered the fairy paradise, where they experience a reality wondrous beyond imagining.
They know nothing of the shock wave that disrupted the veil as they entered, leaving the worlds of human and fairy visible to each other for a split second. Nor do they know of the army scouring the enchanted forest in search of them or the fate that has befallen the Princess's own parents.
Meanwhile, the Knight of Spears and the Bard hope to free the Emperor from captivity, even as they are constantly on the run - not just from the Council, but from the unceasing natural disasters that plague the Empire.
Everywhere cities are crumbling, beasts are roaming freely, and what seems like only a handful of souls fight for peace. The only way out is to stand and be where they are, as they are, united and connected against the forces of greed and corruption.
The sign has been seen by the Cat High Priest, forcing the Cat King he advises to send out the Seven Cat Envoys by ancient decree to serve the animal kingdoms from humankinds excesses, to go out and sound the seven cat bells of the seven cat bellfries throughout the usurped Empire.
"Capture the Princess and her Knight and return them to me!"
With those words, the Imperial Council sent an entire army of soldiers into the forest to imprison the Fool and the Princess in the same dungeon where they held the Emperor and the Empress captive.
The Cat King walked across the rooftops and balconies in the magnificent City of Stars, the capital of the Empire, and watched as hundreds of soldiers, rattling and clattering in new armor, set off toward the dark forest in the hopes of finding the fairy gate.
Immediately, the cat king knew what to do: send the cat envoys to the seven cat bell fries to ring the cat bells.
Back in the underground cat city, the Cat King convened his court. Among the many noble cats, there were seven cats that emerged from the crowd before the throne of the Cat King. All cats bowed down to him.
"For generations, we have kept up with the tradition of the seven cat envoys in each of the seven big cat cities. You, noble cat envoys, came from your hometown with the task of returning only in case of great danger. I am sorry to announce that now is the time! We have to ring the cat bells in the seven cat bell fries as soon as possible," said the Cat King.
The cat people listened with bated breath to the Cat King’s state of affairs in the human world: an Imperial Council without an Emperor, the Kings and Queens of the lands locked up in their own castles, a Princess in exile with a Fool as her knight.
"If the soldiers find their way to the elven gate, the Enchanted Deer could close the gate for good and call back the last of the magical creatures hidden throughout the land. A life without magic is like a world without flowers. It's our job to protect this fragile beauty!"
All the cats cheered. The King went on to send out the cat envoys. He spoke to the cat envoy who was wearing red trousers and braces:
"Open this little treasure chest, in it is the key that opens the door to the cat clock at the top of the cat belfry in the City of Bridges – where one cannot bear injustice and falsehood."
And the cat envoy with the red trousers broke the seal of the treasury and took out a chain with a large key attached to it. He bowed and walked away in a hurry.
To the cat envoy with the orange trousers and braces, the Cat King said:
"Open this little treasure chest, in it is the key that opens the door to the cat clock at the top of the cat bellfry in the City of Sheets – where one is powerful enough to banish fear and doubt."
And the cat envoy with the orange trousers also carefully broke the seal of the treasury, took out the necklace with the large key and hung it around his neck. He bowed and quickly set off.
To the cat envoy with the gold-colored trousers and braces, the Cat King said:
"Open this little treasure chest, in it is the key that opens the door to the cat clock at the top of the cat belfry in the Proud City of Flowers – where both their leaven and their words are fed by the power of the invisible."
And also the cat envoy with the gold-colored trousers carefully broke the seal of the treasury, took out the chain with the large key and grabbed it tightly. He bowed and walked on quickly.
To the cat envoy with the grass-colored trousers and braces, the Cat King said:
"Open this little treasure chest, in it is the key that opens the door to the cat clock at the top of the cat bell fry in the City of Acorns – where people work hard to be able to share their abundance with each other."
And the cat envoy with the grass-colored trousers also carefully broke the seal of the treasury, took out the necklace with the large key and tied it to his pants. He bowed and spurted out the door.
To the cat envoy with the light blue trousers and braces, the Cat King said:
"Open this little treasure chest, in it is the key that opens the door to the cat clock at the top of the cat bellfry in the City of Pants– where one drinks the clearest water and speaks only clear things."
And the cat envoy with the light blue trousers broke the seal of the treasury, took out the chain with the big key attached to it, bowed and immediately left for his city.
To the cat envoy with the purple trousers and braces, the Cat King said:
"Open this little treasure chest, in it is the key that opens the door to the cat clock at the top of the cat belfry in the City of Lovers, where one holds fast to the truth and resists temptations."
And the cat envoy with the purple trousers also broke the seal of the treasury, took out the necklace with the big key and hung it solemnly around his neck. He bowed to the Cat King and left.
To the last cat envoy, the cat envoy with the violet trousers and braces, the Cat King said:
"Open this little treasure chest, in it is the key that opens the door to the cat clock at the top of the cat bell in the City of Hazels – where one is peaceful and rested, but must now be awakened."
And the cat envoy with the violet trousers obediently broke the seal of the treasury, took out the necklace with the large key and wrapped it around his front paw. He bowed and was the last to leave.
The journey of the cat envoys was longer for some more than others, but all of them knew that at midnight - when the moon was highest in the sky – the bells had to be rung. Hastily, they climbed to the top of each of the cat belfries stuck the keys into the keyholes of those old doors that hadn't been opened for hundreds of years. Once there, they pushed them open, making a big creaking sound.
Meanwhile, all the cats in the City of Stars came together from the tunnels of the underground cat city and gathered there on all rooftops, with their ears pricked up in expectation.
So high were the cat envoys above ground that they had to be very careful not to tumble down before accomplishing the most important task of their lives. The cat bells were all cat-sized and decorated with old cat signs and symbols.
Patiently they waited for the precise moment, looking at the moon to feel when midnight had come by its silvery rays. When they finally felt the moment was right, they jumped down, clawing the rope tightly to their paws.
Thus, throughout the empire, the cat bells began to ring with a sound so high and so clear that no human ears could hear it, but nonetheless the sound spread effortlessly all throughout the land.
As the cats on the roofs in the City of Stars heard the cat bells ringing one by one, a most beautiful sound, they spontaneously began to sing along. And the same thing happened in all cities and towns.
And when the seventh cat bell was rung, all living things heard it in such a way that they woke up from their nightly sleep, feeling fervently without a need to speak: I am awake. And from all four directions suddenly a great wind arose that blew over all the forests, all the mountains, all the rivers, all the fields, all the hills, all the villages and all the cities.
A storm is coming.
The Sorceress and the snake discuss his hands, or the lack of them. Then the devilish creature takes off to take a look at the Elven Paradise himself, where he is caught by the Enchanted Deer before long.
Of the four Kings who were once loyal to the Emperor, all remained loyal through and through, except for the King of Coins. He and the Serpent had been very, very close friends and the reason for this bond was really rather simple. The King knew the power and might of gold coins, silver coins, bronze coins and how every single person can easily always carry a little bit with them, making up a giganticly complicated whole... under their control.
Now, the serpent wasn't interested in the coins themselves, not in the least. The only thing he cared about was what the coins could do for him. And what he thought the coins should do was bring him many human treasures. Endless treasures, endless jewels, endless chests filled with valuables, endless collections, endless soft fabrics and pillows, endless food and drink, endless having.
And so it was that he had the King of Coins make all kinds of different coins with separate complicated rules. Only one rule was to remain very clear: the town hall in return collected precious treasures and heirlooms from every inhabitant.
“Of course”, the snake would say, “I only want really valuable things for myself. Why would I need coins to trade when I everything flows to me anyways?”
Also very fond of priceless treasures was the Sorceress, who was always kept close by the serpent, mostly to chat about how he ruled the Empire with an iron fist.
“I don't have a fist”, the snake would always laugh, “Have you ever seen a snake with hands? That would be monstrous!”
"But you are a monster ," the Sorceress teased, cackling from her home: the mirror shard.
The serpent lay, as usual, in a jeweled gold goblet with its head and tail dangling from it, atop a gleaming silver plateau. The shard the Sorceress lived in lay upright against a candelabra opposite him.
“If you say so,” said the serpent, “But it is true that I do rule. Only with... say… an invisible hand.”
Both of them bursted out laughing in a loud cackle. Suddenly a group of counselors stormed into the hall behind the King of Coins.
"Everything is ready," said one of the counselors closest to the Serpent's plateau, "We have conquered every free city and built a town hall in each of them."
“Soon everyone will be using coins,” said the King of Coins proudly, “instead of that tedious barter of furs and goats and wine. The real ruler is who rules over the coins.”
“You almost sound like the Emperor,” said the serpent mockingly, “Only he would be talking about... hearts... instead of coins. How old-fashioned! What people do with their hearts, what does that have to do with anything?"
The counselors and the King of Coins cheered three times for the serpent in an extremely official manner of expressing joy.
“I want to have all treasures of the world, you want to have all treasures of the world, now together we will collect all the treasures of the world! How delicious! My plan works and everyone who works the plan can make it work for them. Isn't that so very generous of me?”
“So generous. So incredibly generous," burbled the counselors, bowing, pleased with what they had done and excited about what they would get what they could get.
The snake stared at the counselors for a moment.
"Good job. Then it's time I go get her, I think," said the snake.
"Who? The princess?" asked the Sorceress, “But how are you going to get to the fairy realm from here? Something no human has been able to do so far?”
“Is that so, sorceress,” asked the serpent, hissing confidently.
"I'm not a human being, am I?”
And the snake bit its own tail.
The counselors watched anxiously as the snake slowly but surely bit its own tail until it finally swallowed itself entirely and disappeared with one last hiccup.
The white snake opened its eyes slowly. He looked around and immediately got a chill down his spine at the sight of the paradise of the fairy world.
“How annoying this place is,” he said to himself.
“So much together, so little apart; too much singing, too little... thinging.”
It slithered and slithered on and ended up in the empty streets of humankinds's home in the fairy world. Suddenly a shadow fell over the snake.
"Come and see what you've done?" asked the Enchanted Deer, "The emptiness and the desolation?"
The snake slithered quickly the other way and raised its head.
“Well if it isn't my old, old... old friend”, he said, “You are fast.”
“I don't have to be fast. I'm always already where I am,” said the Enchtanted Deer.
The snake slithered in circles around them.
“You should see what I'm accomplishing out there.”
The Enchanted Deer looked at him in silence and said, “Not me, but you should see what you think you're accomplishing out there."
The serpent hissed at the Enchanted Deer and said, “And yet they have all gone away, haven't they! The houses are empty, so are the streets! They have all left you one by one.”
The Enchanted Deer stamped their hooves in the dust of the paving stones and said to the serpent:
“Anything that is released can come back.”
“Goes without saying,” muttered the snake.
“Anything confined can only break free.”
The serpent snaked to the other side, out of the warmth of the radiant sun.
“Endless wisdom,” the serpent sighed and slithered away from the streets, away from the gardens, away from the ponds and fountains, away from the fairy circles, far away from it all, away from the Enchanted Deer, straight to the nearest shadow.
And there he waited hidden in the darkness for the Princess.
The Fool, meanwhile, awoke from a wonderful sleep and saw the Enchanted Deer roaming the deserted streets in the distance. He stretched his arms and yawned briefly, then walked down the steps across the sunny square toward the Enchanted Deer.
“How long did I sleep?” the Fool asked as he climbed their antlers.
"As long as it took, if you woke up on your own," said they.
The Fool, as he had become accustomed to, climbed into a comfortable space to sit and hang in the giant antlers.
"You know what?" asked the Fool.
"What?" said the Enchanted Deer.
“I wonder where the Princess has gone."
“I was wondering the same thing”, said the snake that followed from the darkness.
"We'll look for her," said the Enchanted Deer, and suddenly he sprang forward so suddenly that the Fool nearly flew out of his antlers, had he not been hooked to them with his feet. He felt the wind whirl past him with his arms wide open. He knew they would never let him fall and so he hung there in the wind with his feet on the antlers as the Enchanted Deer leaped over the hills.
They eventually stopped at water's edge, where the Star often sat with the elves, but the Princess was nowhere to be seen. The Fool climbed out of the antlers.
"Well, she's certainly not here," said the Fool, scratching his hair.
The toads in the water croaked softly, making circles in the water around them. Little elves sat on the backs of the toads, staring at the Fool who had disturbed their game.
"Have you seen the princess?" asked the Fool.
The elves flew away, but the toads turned to the Fool and said, “She's here. She's there. She's on her way. She comes."
“I... I can understand what they're saying!” exclaimed the Fool in astonishment.
"Of course", the Deer laughed, "The more you listen to messages instead of words, eventually you can understand everything that speaks to you!"
"This is amazing!" said the Fool, and spoke further with the toads.
"It's terrible," said the snake to itself, "Everyone here understands what I mean, it's the very reason I can't stand this place!"
But then something caught his eye in the light blue clear sky. The stars began to shine, as if it were already night. Shooting stars they were, falling together as if they were stuck in a beautiful robe. And the robe was almost as big as heaven itself, beautiful to behold. And it was the Star who wore the robe and descended wearing it with a radiant smile.
In the robe sat the Princess, who softly put her feet back on the ground and immediately embraced the Fool.
“It's great here,” she said, “I'm discovering so much! I'm exploring more than my heart's desire! I have seen heaven from the heavens! It's like a dream come true!”
“Princess,” said the Fool, still embracing her, “This too is a dream come true.”
The snake hissed with its forked tongue.
“All dreams come to an end."
The playful Bard and the tough Knight of Spears seek a quiet place to regain their strength, but collide with the soldiers ever on the prowl. Yet, thanks to the conflict, they unexpectedly end up on the right path.
The Troubadour looked at the cute little side tower that jutted out from the great belfry in the City of Bridges. The full moon blanketing the sleepy city with soft silver light.
“What are you staring at?” asked the Knight of Spears, wearing a gray hooded cloak like the Troubadour. They were under a short passage on a side street not far from the main market square.
The Troubadour did not answer. Suddenly he put his index finger in his mouth.
"What are you doing?" whispered the Knight of Spears impatiently, “Try to blend in, Bard, there are a lot of soldiers around these parts. Do you want to get thrown into the cellars again?”
The Troubadour now held up his wet finger and closed his eyes for a moment. The Knight of Spears said no more, and wrapped himself even more tightly in his robes. It was cold and a chilly drizzle hung in the air. People passed hurriedly in the gallery and paid no attention to the Troubadour.
“The wind has changed,” said the Troubadour, frowning.
He wiped his finger on his robe, which was just a little darker than the Knight of Spears, almost dark black.
"I don't have to put my finger in my mouth air to figure that out," said the Knight, "Everywhere we go, soldiers are lurking about, eager to catch us."
The Troubadour nodded and grabbed his pipe from under his robe. Then, they walked quietly on in search of an inn. The Knight of Spears was very bored by the many inexplicable moments when the Troubadour suddenly stopped to watch or listen.
“My robe is soaked, how many times do we need to stop in the rain to gawp at the belfry?”
"No more," said the Troubadour, "I'm hungry."
He looked into his pipe.
"And I've nothing left to smoke."
At the inn, the Troubadour stared out the small window at the dark market square. He hadn't taken off his robes or taken off his hood. Sitting closer to the fire, the Knight had layed out his soaking wet robes on an empty chair to dry. He had laid his spear next to it, much to the astonishment of the guests in the inn.
They had both been served a plate of hot waterzooi full of delicious vegetables, carrots and the occasional piece of tender meat. Starved from all the fleeing and fighting of the past few weeks, the Knight of Spears gobbled up the meal. Not so with the Troubadour.
He took a piece of meat from his waterzooi, tore off a strip and placed it on the sill of the open window.
"Can you close the window, please?" the Knight asked between gulping and swallowing loudly, "It's horribly cold outside."
“Wait,” whispered the Troubadour.
The Knight of Spears shook his head at the Bard's nonsense and continued to eat. He was happy to feel the plate of waterzooi was warming him up from the inside. Meanwhile, he looked around at the guests in the inn, who stared quietly at the two of them, whispering.
Suddenly a small cat came sniffing at the piece of meat on the windowsill. Shy at first, but then strongly lured by the scent of the dish, the kitten sat down to eat.
The Troubadour clicked his tongue and gently stroked the cat. The cat started purring happily.
"What are you doing?" the Knight asked. He saw the guests starting to stare at his odd behaviour.
The Bard fished another piece of meat from the waterzooi and gave it to the cat, who began to meow gratefully. He listened intently and attentively to the little cat.
The innkeeper came around angrily and took the plates from under their hands, saying:
“We cook for people, not for animals.”
"See?" said the Knight, once the innkeeper got back behind the counter, "I hadn't even finished eating that."
“Why are you mad at me? I'm not the one that took your plate," said the Bard, "And now the cat ran away. Shame. Her story was just getting interesting.”
They both took a sip of their barley liquor.
“How are we to free the Emperor, if we can't find anyone to help us? The soldiers are everywhere, watching every move we make.”
"But we have a big, strong Knight between the two of us," said the Bard, "You!"
The Knight took another long gulp from his cup with a defeated expression hanging even heavier from his eyes.
“Being a knight fighting for people who can't defend themselves isn't worth much if anyone can become a soldier who will fight for coins.”
“That reminds me,” said the Bard, and he raised his voice to speak to the innkeeper behind the counter: “I have no coins with which to pay, my dear innkeeper, but I do know a beautiful song with which to delight your guests. ”
He stood up, looked around, opened his robe and revealed the many colors of the clothes he wore underneath. From his pocket he took a small harp and began to strum it. The Knight sank into his seat with shame.
The guests stared at the Troubadour, disturbed and almost frightened. The innkeeper asked, "And what song would you like to sing for us?"
“The tragic song of an Emperor, thrown into the dungeon of his own palace.”
The guests at the inn immediately began to argue.
"Spare us your old-fashioned song," cried the innkeeper, with a little fear in his voice, "If you really want to sing something, sing something happy."
"Happy, y?" asked the Bard, "At your service. A happy song, which will be about how the Emperor will one day be back on his throne.”
The people now began to howl at the Troubadour.
“Do you want to stop that? It's forbidden!" cried the innkeeper.
At the same time, a man passed by the table where the Knight was sitting and said quietly,
“You're in the wrong inn, my friends. Come to the basement of the house with the 11 staired facade and a rooster with four feathers in its tail on top, over the bridge with the statue of the high priest. There we can still sing and dance freely.”
And before the Knight could say anything, the man had already exited the inn. The Knight did not hesitate and took his spear and put on his warm and dry robes.
“We don't want any trouble. Speaking of the Emperor is forbidden. The Council is now in charge of us. We just want to obey the laws.”
“You want to obey the laws of those who broke the law?”
Some of the guests stood up to answer the Bard:
“The Imperial Court is now the Court of all of us, rather than just one man. The Imperial Court now listens to all of us, instead of just one man.”
The Bard had to suppress his laughter, hearing this. The guests at the inn didn't like that very much. Things were starting to get more and more dangerous and the Knight was well aware of that. He moved closer to the Bard, clutching his spear tightly.
“How can the Council listen to all of us,” asked the Troubadour, “If they tell us what to say? How can the Council listen to all of us if they forbid us to speak?”
“If you only want to talk about things forbidden, get out of our inn! We just want to continue in peace and quiet as we always have.”
The guests kept getting angrier and angrier. The Knight of Spears now grabbed the Troubadour's arm as he led him toward the entrance, but the Bard kept going.
“The winds have already changed,” cried the Bard, “As it always was, is no more. If peace and quiet only exist when you follow people who break laws to make their own laws, then follow them. You will see that you are only free to decide what they want you to decide. If you think that is freedom… congratulations to you!”
Yet two soldiers were waiting for them at the entrance, blocking their way.
“Troublemakers, eh?” said they, drawing their swords.
“I've been waiting all day for this,” said the Knight, with a sudden broad smile as he grabbed his spear with both hands. The Bard held his staff at the ready.
The soldiers couldn't get very close with their swords, for sharp as they were, they were a good deal shorter than the Knight's spear.
The Knight kept one at bay with the back of his spear, while the other tried unsuccessfully to hit him from the other side. So the Knight cleared the way for them to exit the inn.
Quickly, he thrusted his spear right into the sword-wielding hands of the one soldier. Hands bleeding, his sword fell to the ground, clattering heavily. Quickly the Knight leaped forward and kicked the soldier right in the chest, who flinched and flew into the inn.
This all happened so quickly that the other soldier could do nothing but watch as his mate lay exhausted between the soup and the potatoes. He turned back to the Knight and tried to split the spear's wood in half, but the Knight evaded him effortlessly, as though dancing. With the blunt back of his spear he then hit the soldier straight in the nose, then in the throat, then in the stomach.
The soldier fell to his knees before the Knight, who immediately kicked the sword from his hands.
"We don't ever make trouble," said the Knight to the collapsed soldier, "We finish it."
Unexpectedly, cheering came roaring from the inn. But the innkeeper couldn't bear the thought of having his inn closed by the Imperial Council and so he immediately shut the door and barked at the guests to close all the windows as well.
“And where are we going now?” said the Troubadour, looking unfazed into his empty pipe, as though nothing had happened.
The Knight shook off his spear and said, "Across the bridge with the statue of the high priest, to the house with eleven steps on the gable and a rooster with four feathers in the tail on top."
The Troubadour looked at him in surprise: "That's oddly specific!"
“Well, what are you waiting for then?” the Knight asked, and they walked away together past the moaning soldier.
And so, across the bridge with the high priest, down in the basement of the gable with the eleven stairs and the rooster with four feathers in the tail, the two found a cozy room full of men dancing and drinking and smoking and hugging as they sang songs of the Emperor and the Enchanted Deer. There was a sign in the shape of a crown above the open door:
“I'm sure they'll have something to put in my pipe here,” said the Troubadour with a big smile as they entered.