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We reach the fifteenth chapter of our Waking Beauty series, and some of the mystery surrounding Princess Talia will be revealed.

The city of Oxford has fallen asleep under a cloud of fog. Only Basil and one or two others are awake. He meets Princess Talia's fairy godmother, who takes him to a barge by the river and explains to him why all these mysterious things have happened.


Story by Bertie.

Read by Elizabeth.

Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.

Illustrated by Chiara Civati.


The paving stones of Westerly College were ankle deep in wisps of mist. But it was the time of day when the spring sun shone directly into the quad, and shafts of light played in the flaxen hair of the woman who was walking towards Basil. She seemed like she had stepped out of a dream or a vision. She walked up to him with hurried steps and said:

“Sir Basil, let us be gone from this place. It is an evil corner of the city.”

Basil was not quite sure whether he was more taken aback by being addressed 'Sir'or the description of his college as 'evil'.

“But I can’t go until I’ve found my friend Sally.”

“She is waiting for us in the barge, my Lord.”

“What barge?” asked Basil.

“The barge of Avion. But each minute on the dial is precious, let us hurry.”

And Basil realised that her every answer just gave rise to more questions, and so he stopped asking, and hurried in the direction of the Porter’s Lodge, and from there, he stepped out into the sleeping city.

As they went along, Basil checked his smart phone to see if there was anything on Google news or the BBC about what was happening in Oxford, but his phone had no signal.

They retraced his recent path, across the piazza with the domed Radcliffe Camera building, and back down the silent and slumbering High Street towards Magdalen Bridge. Basil walked meekly alongside the lady, now well aware that he had little or no say over where they would go, who they would meet, or what they would do. The events that were taking place were beyond his understanding. All he could do was to place his complete faith and trust in this good fairy.

The mist was thick by the river, and they made their way with great care down some steps to the bank, and along the narrow tow path to where the punts were tied waiting for tourists and romantically minded students to hire them. But there were no customers today, and the owner was fast asleep on the grass. Basil shuddered as he thought how cold he must be, but he was one of thousands who had fallen asleep in random spots all over city.

A little further along, a wooden barge was moored. It was a pretty boat, painted gold, and with a prow in the form of a swan. The name on its side was Avion.

Basil stepped on board first, and held his hand out for the fairy godmother, though she was no doubt both lighter and steadier on her feet than he was.

The door of the cabin opened, and a familiar head popped out and said:

“What took you so long?”

It was of course Sally, still wearing the protecting amulet given to her by Princess Talia. She invited them to step down into the cabin, which was filled with a homely aroma. A freshly baked fruit cake, slightly crusty and burnt on top, stood on the table.

“Hmm, that smells good,” said Basil. “Did you bake it?”

“No. Edwina did. I just took it out.”

“Edwina?” asked Basil.

And Sally indicated with a nod that Edwina was the name of Talia’s fairy godmother.

They sat around the table, and Sally cut the cake, but Edwina said that only Basil - or to be precise, 'Sir Basil' could eat it.

“All for me?” asked Basil. “It’s not got anything, er, unusual in it, by any chance?”

“The cake is powerful,” said Edwina, “but good.”

The taste was certainly more tangy than a usual fruit cake, but Basil liked it. “Yes, very good,” he said.

“Don’t say that, I’m famished,” said Sally. And when Basil wiped his mouth and asked if he could have another piece, her stomach audibly growled in protest.

“Sorry Sally,” he said.

“No, it’s me who should be sorry,” said Sally “for thinking that Talia was crazy. Poor Talia. Edwina told me what happened. And of course I realise now that the Rector’s wife really is a witch.”

“And not just any ordinary witch,” said Edwina in her clear voice. “She is Morgan Le Fay.”

“I’ve heard of her name,” said Basil “But I’m afraid I don’t know anything about her. Could you try to help me understand what’s happening?”

“She is an enemy of knowledge. She derives her magical powers from human ignorance. She is like a black hole that sucks up knowledge and destroys it in the process. An event like a book burning fills her with energy and rejuvenates her malicious powers.

“She brought down the Court of Camelot, the home of King Arthur, Chivalry, and Honour, and ushered in the dark ages, when ignorance ruled this sceptered isle. Abroad, she inspired the persecution of the astronomer, Galileo. She caused the Great Fire of London which ravaged St. Paul’s Cathedral, and all the books that used to be kept within it. Now she plans to create a great bonfire of books from the greatest library in the world, the Bodleian here in Oxford, but the minds of all the scholars working around the university were interfering with her plans. Her evil intent cannot operate in a field of such intense and collective thought. It is for this reason, that she has caused the city to fall asleep. This is a trick she has employed before, not least when she set Princess Talia and her family to slumber for a thousand years. They were the greatest scholars of their time, and therefore the enemies of superstition and ignorance. She had to put them to one side while she burned the Book of Wisdom which they kept in their castle.”

“A library seems like quite an old fashioned target,” said Basil. “What about the internet? Surely she must want to bring that down?”

“The internet is indeed a great source of knowledge, but it is also a vast repository of idle gossip, dark plots, wild theories, crude entertainment and stupidity. People are as much distracted as enlightened by it. On balance, the net suits her purpose for now. She has not only put Oxford to sleep, but she has suspended it in time. The Oxford we are in now is a suspended state that exists in parallel with the city that continues to live and bustle. She expended a huge amount of magical power to cast such a spell, and now she is resting. We have about 48 hours before she will be restored enough to carry out the next phase of her plan. And when she has completed that, and the knowledge of centuries is in flames, then Basil, she intends to bring Oxford out of its state of suspended animation. She will be flush with evil energy from so great a destruction and then she will challenge and eliminate her enemies, chiefly, Princess Talia, myself, and dear Basil, you.”

“Me, why on earth am I her enemy?”

“Because, dear Basil, you are the direct descendant of Sir Eric, Knight of the Round Table, and it is your destiny to triumph over Morgan Le Fey. But first you must return home to retrieve the armour and weapons that you will need for the task.”

“I didn’t think I had any weapons at my parent’s house in Fulham,” said Basil.

“Not that home. You must return to your ancestral home, and for that you must go back in time.”

“Yes, back in time,” he said sleepily.

“Basil, are you okay?” asked Sally with alarm. She leant over the table and felt his hand. It was cold and clammy. “Oh no, don’t fall asleep now... Basil, stay awake!”

But Edwina said: “Don’t worry Sally. It is a different sort of sleep that is taking over him now.”

Basil tried to speak, but instead he yawned.

“Go into the back room and lie down on the bed,” said the fairy godmother. “We shall leave now before you fall asleep. The boatman will take you back in time. When you wake, be sure to ask for the Wizard Merlin.”

Basil felt too weary to protest. He more or less stumbled into the bedroom at the back of the boat, crashed on the bed, and fell into a deep sleep.

And Sally said: “Oh Basil, waiting for you here is going to be so hard. I wish I could go with you.”

And Edwina said: “Rest child. All we can do now is wait for him.” She sat in a tall Venetian chair with lion heads carved on the back and gently closed her eyes.

Sally tried to lie down on a chaise longue, but she was far to fidgety to sleep. She eyed the cake on the table. Basil had left his second slice almost untouched. Quietly, she got up, took the piece on the table, and went into the room where Basil lay virtually unconscious. She began to eat the cake.

And that was the story of 'The Beauty and Sir Basil'. I’m not quite sure if that cleared up the mystery of Princess Talia or deepened it.

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