of blinding light was followed a few seconds later by the sound of something
like thunder. When Scott opened his eyes, a cornfield surrounded him.
He expected to see rain but the sky had only white, puffy, scattered
clouds. Maybe the sound and light was just from the virtual reality
Scott blinked his eyes, squinted, and then rubbed them.
His vision had changed and become a little less sharp. Of course! The
computer-made disguise had changed Scott's vision.
On all sides the light green corn stalks surrounded him
and stretched above his head. He was so swallowed up by the corn that
he could only see clouds straight overhead. He didn't see or hear Leonard
or Catherine anywhere near, nor did he see any sign of Ann.
Suddenly, Scott came upon a stone wall well. No one was
there except him. He saw an empty bucket tied to a rope, hanging on
the pole above the well. He grabbed hold of the bucket. Looking around
to see if anyone would show themselves and object to Scott using the
bucket, he saw no one. He lowered the bucket down into the well. He
was so thirsty.
After raising the bucket up out of the well, he untied it
and set it down on the ground. When he leaned over the bucket, Scott
saw his own reflection for the first time within Star Park. Leonard's
last minute changes truly had made Scott wear the disguise of a pig,
or at least a pig-like creature in this adventure world.
His face wasn't exactly like that of a pig, but there was
a resemblance to a pig's face. He had the same round snout with two
nostrils. He had a thick neck. His legs ended in hooves. But unlike
the pigs Scott knew, his own arms did have two hands of a sort. He clumsily
used his new pig-like arms to drink the water. Scott hoped he would
soon get used to the feel of his new pig-like disguise.
Scott was surprised by the expensive, rather stylish clothes,
he wore. He wore rich green trousers, a yellow shirt, an orange vest,
a gold belt, a purple cape, and black shoes. His character in this world
must be someone of some wealth, he guessed. There was an expensive-looking
sheathed silver sword dangling from his belt. He sported a red, three-cornered
hat on his head.
Seeing his own reflection in the bucket also started Scott
thinking about other things. What kind of situation did he find himself
in? He seemed to be in some kind of farm area where they grew crops
of corn at least for food. He didn't know much more than that. Here
he was in Star Park. He had twelve days left to figure out the code
words or his sister would die. What would happen during these twelve
days? What could he do?
satisfying his thirst at the well, Scott plodded off. Soon, he found
himself at the edge of the cornfield.
From here, Scott gazed far off into the distance. But as
he had already discovered about his vision, things really far away were
somewhat blurred. But how did the system of computers work out the next
change he noticed? His sense of smell had grown better.
It was exactly because of this new better sense of smell
that Scott tensed. He smelled it, though he could not see it yet. Something
living was approaching.
Then he saw it, a shape coming slowly toward him, looking
quite a bit like a sea turtle, but walking upright like a human on turtle-like
Interestingly, as if walking proved somewhat difficult, this creature
used a cane.
Amazing, Scott thought, then snorted. In snorting, he realized
he had begun to do so without giving it a serious thought. It seemed
completely natural, as if he'd made this noise all his life.
He grew slightly amused rather than scared by this creature.
Actually, he felt the corners of his mouth pulling up in a grin. But
somehow it felt different to grin in this new world. Reaching out to
touch his face, he touched his own snout, and decided he wasn't yet
used to the feel of it.
Scott turned his attention deliberately back to the creature
in front of him. He was smiling and looked very intelligent. He was
dressed in a buttoned, white shirt, and a sharp-looking, sleeveless,
velvety green coat. A green and gray sort of shell stuck out of the
back of the coat, as if this was perfectly acceptable, natural, and
even stylish. He wore red pants and black shoes. This creature's arms
and legs were covered by a pleasant green, leathery, wrinkly, sort of
skin. The texture of the skin, besides being green, reminded Scott somewhat
of wrinkly elephant's skin. This turtle-like creature wore a red, three-cornered
hat just like Scott's.
The creature strode forward with an occasional hop. "Prince
Eric.... there you are," the creature said. He stopped in front
of Scott and smiled graciously. "You must come. We must leave."
The creature somehow had a scholarly air, as if he was a
professor or something like that.
"Leave for where? And what's your name?" Scott
"We're leaving for High Court Day! My name's Mosaul,
to be sure. Why are you pretending you don't know?" The creature
called Mosaul posed this last question with a hint of puzzlement creeping
into his voice.
"Which way are we headed?" Scott asked.
"That way." Mosaul raised a wooden cane and pointed
toward distant hills. "We shall follow this road."
The hills Mosaul pointed to rolled sleepily off into the
distance. They were carpeted with green as far as Scott could see. Scott
squinted and could barely make out a faraway lake. The road headed in
"That's the way to where this High Court Day is held?"
Scott decided to go with this creature. He started trotting.
This delighted Mosaul. As if to emphasize his pleasure,
Mosaul blinked his wide eyes and took a little hop-step. Scott trotted
on, trying to get an idea of his surroundings as he went. He stopped
a few times to try to see further into the distance. Once again, Scott
halted to look around for a moment. Without warning, Mosaul rammed his
wooden cane down into the dirt. It stirred up a bit of dust. Plainly
Mosaul did this to show things weren't going enough to his liking.
Mosaul spoke with great conviction. "With all due respect,
I scarcely think you'd keep King Rob waiting, even if he is your father!
You know as well as I that your whole future's going to be decided upon
today in the High Court. Let us hurry there!"
Scott didn't know what to think of this. He kept to himself
and decided to go along with this creature.
Soon Scott and Mosaul reached a hilltop. Scott saw the neighboring
land. The countryside was dry as if it hadn't rained for a long, long
"I can never get over the sight of this!" Mosaul
said. "To think that many bours are too lazy to water their crops
though there is enough water. What a shame!"
Scott began noticing a few landmarks. A large river could
be seen snaking out to sea. The lake he had seen earlier had grown much
nearer as well.
"What are those specks on that distant hill?"
"That's the palace where we go next," Mosaul replied.
He spoke as if he felt Scott should already know.
Scott took the lead down a twisting path which guided them
between two hills. Now, hot and sticky, they rounded the next hill.
Here they met the lake Scott had spotted.
Scott was glad to see the lake. Then he spied a gray tower
on the other side of the lake.
"Mosaul, what is that gray tower?" Scott asked.
Mosaul didn't answer right away.
The few seconds before Mosaul replied made Scott more curious.
Why had Mosaul fallen silent and had assumed such a somber expression?
Mosaul frowned, shook his head, then finally spoke.
"Do you have the fever, Prince?" Mosaul asked
gruffly and pointedly. "Up to now I have been quite puzzled, but
I would guess that you have the fever."
"No," Scott replied. "I don't think so."
"But you must," Mosaul replied. The frown remained.
"Why?" Scott asked innocently.
"Because you asked that question, for one," Mosaul replied,
shaking his head again sadly.
"I still don't understand," Scott said. "I
only asked you about that tower."
"Prince Eric would have already known what that tower
is," Mosaul replied sharply. "You're either not Prince Eric,"
Mosaul stopped and kept turning his head from side to side, studying
him. Then Mosaul stopped his examination. "Or you've caught the
dreaded fever. If you've caught the fever, it's made you lose your memory.
I've noticed you haven't been acting like Prince Eric. But you have
to be. You have every feature, every small scar, and every family resemblance."
Scott didn't know what to say.
Mosaul rested one hand on his hip. With the other he pointed
his gnarled wooden cane at Scott. "You don't know-do you?"
Mosaul said. He hopped excitedly into the air then slammed his cane
down onto the ground. "Just as I feared. You must have the fever.
It makes you lose your memory if you catch it."
"What should I do now?" Scott asked. "I don't
live here. A system of computers made up this entire world inside a
big space station. It's just like a movie but everything's more real.
And just like an actor I've been given a role to play. Except I didn't
know what it was. Now I think I do. I am to be a prince."
Scott explained about Leonard, Catherine, the computers,
Ann, the adventure, and Star Park. He knew it would be, as always, best
to tell the truth.
Yet after Mosaul heard it all, he still just shook his head.
"There, there, Prince," he said with a sympathetic gesture.
"You surely have the fever and you don't remember a thing. It must
be hard for you."
Scott could see the look of pity in Mosaul's eyes. "No,"
Scott replied, "I do come from another world. Everything here is
in this space station. But much more exists outside this space station."
"Where's this other world?" Mosaul asked with
a kind but disbelieving tone.
"Some day soon I hope to return to Earth, to travel
back to my real home. But right now it's a great distance away. You
don't know this other world exists, but it does. You need to believe
"Oh, you poor Prince," Mosaul said softly... He
remained at Scott's side and again gave him a sympathetic look. "You
have the fever quite badly. I've never heard of a worse case of getting
the fever. Or anyone saying there is more world beyond what can be seen
Scott, surprised, saw how much Mosaul cared. A tear had
begun to slide down Mosaul's cheek.
"Please," Scott said. He reached over and patted
Mosaul on the back. "Don't worry. I'm sure I'll find my sister
and then we will both find our way back to our real world."
"For right now we need to return to the palace,"
Mosaul said. He said nothing more but still frowned as if not believing
Scott in the least.
"What's that gray stone tower?" Scott asked once
more as they began moving on.
"That's the home of General Dursna, King Rob's second-in-command.
The only reason you wouldn't remember who Dursna is, would be if you
truly have lost your memory. She is away. But when you meet her you
will surely never forget her again."
"Why?" Scott asked curiously.
"King Rob trusts her, but I have doubts. When she's
around, she always seems to cause trouble."
As they started again, their traveling became harder.
They now crossed a meadow next to a thicket of trees. The
trees were inhabited by birds so exotic that Scott was amazed. The birds
chirped and flew back and forth.
"Watch the road," Mosaul said. He pointed straight
ahead. "We must press on."
In the path Scott saw a heavy rut. New, black earth had
been turned up. The rut was fresh.
"No one usually travels in this area when Dursna is
away," Mosaul said. "I don't understand why we should see
a fresh track like this. A wagon went by here not long ago."
Abruptly, they heard a tree limb crashing as it broke off
somewhere. Scott peered around and saw nothing. The tree limb evidently
broke off within hearing distance. He guessed it broke off not far out
of their sight.
Scott now thought he smelled something alive deeper in the thicket.
Though his eyes couldn't see as well, his nose certainly did sharply
detect even faint smells.
The birds' chirping changed. Their cheerfulness switched
to a warning of something approaching.
"Shhh," Mosaul said with a tone of caution. He
stooped down. "Stay low and don't snort, Prince," he said
in a whisper. Mosaul dropped down low to the ground and crawled forward
"What's the matter?" Scott answered in a whisper.
Now he copied Mosaul, moving forward. He tried to crawl forward like
a stalking cat.
"I know this area well. Yet I just heard a strange
bird call I don't recognize."
"There are lots of birds here," Scott said.
"Yes," Mosaul answered. "But I've never heard
that bird call. For some reason it just didn't sound like a bird call
to me. It sounded like a fake bird signal."
"Let's hide then, if you feel we need to," Scott
Mosaul nodded and they both moved behind a nearby bush.
Scott and Mosaul moved out of sight just in time. A silver-and-white
painted wagon creaking loudly rolled out of the thicket. It stopped
close to where they now hid.
To his surprise, Scott now saw creatures of a kind he had
never seen before. Four of these white, curly haired four-legged animals
pulled the creaking wagon into sight. The closest thing Scott could
compare them to were llamas, though they didn't look exactly like llamas.
These creatures featured long curly white hair, long pointed ears, and
tails busy swishing away flies.
"What are those?" Scott asked.
"They're skunnies," Mosaul answered. "They're
creatures from the Eastern Barrens. They've been captured by slave traders
and brought here to be slaves."
Two other creatures who possessed pig-like snouts like Scott's,
rode on top of the wagon. One stood tall and wore a black robe with
a royal red, flowing cape. The other, smaller, and on top of the wagon's
seat, reins in hand, dressed in a worn, brown, hand-spun robe. "These
two are bours just like you," Mosaul whispered.
"Are you a bour, too?" Scott asked, still whispering.
"No, I am an intellope," Mosaul answered back
proudly, continuing to whisper.
The larger one of the two bours spoke with a booming voice
of authority. "So you have made the plans?"
"Yes, Dursna," the smaller bour answered.
As soon as the smaller bour answered, the one called Dursna
struck him with a blow.
"I told you never to use my name aloud... it could
be overheard!" Dursna said with a roaring voice.
Scott gasped upon seeing for the first time this Dursna
that Mosaul had spoken about. Here in plain sight was the same one Mosaul
thought was evil and caused trouble. Scott glanced over at Mosaul.
Mosaul frowned. "Yes," he said. "This is
the Dursna I told you about."
Dursna laughed cruelly. "So Prince Eric will change
his plans abruptly. We have quite an unexpected surprise waiting for
"This little surprise will ensure that Prince Eric
has no chance of replacing you as governor over the Eastern Barrens,"
the small bour said.
"Silence!" Dursna replied. "Seal your lips
and guard this secret. No one must hear a word of it."
Dursna suddenly sniffed the air suspiciously. "I smell
something out of place." Dursna without warning
turned and began unleashing a steady volley of arrows in the direction
of Mosaul and Scott's hidden spot.
One arrow landed dangerously close to Scott.
"Mosaul, should we make a run for it?" Scott asked,
his heart racing.
"No," Mosaul whispered. "We would move out
into the open and we would be an easy target for her arrows."
"But I'm the Prince," Scott said. "Surely
Dursna would recognize me and stop shooting."
"Dursna would love for a chance to say it was an accident,"
Scott suddenly made a strange bird call. This startled a
number of birds in the trees. The birds chattered fearfully and flew
"Good work," Mosaul whispered. He had an impressed look on
Dursna laughed. "Just puny birds," she replied. "But
good target practice, just as well."
Now Dursna reached downward and pulled out a long whip.
She raised it high overhead then mercilessly lashed it down across the
backs of the four skunnies. The whip cracked and the skunnies yelped.
Dursna laughed cruelly again. The wagon lurched forward and began to
move with difficulty through the branch-strewn meadow.
Near the end of the meadow the creatures found a path. From
there on the going smoothed out and the wagon gained speed. Dursna,
the other smaller bour, and the wagon pulled by the four skunnies rumbled
out of sight.
When Dursna and the others disappeared out of view, Scott
rose up and turned to Mosaul. "What was that all about?" he
"It smells of evil," Mosaul replied. For a moment
Mosaul frowned. "The prince that Dursna spoke of making plans against
is you. You are to go and replace her as governor. The governorship
is to be your training."
"Why?" Scott asked. "What am I to be trained
"You will take over the throne some day," Mosaul
answered, stamping his cane against the ground. "For some devious
reason Dursna has come back early from the Eastern Barrens."
"Do you have a guess as to what she will most likely
try to do to me?" Scott asked.
"No, but whatever her plans are, they're simply no
good," Mosaul replied. "I'll tell you one thing. It's certain
she'll try to make trouble for you."
Scott pawed at a piece of wood on the ground. "What kind of trouble
could she make for me?"
"I don't know," Mosaul replied. He shook his head
and idly dug a hole in the earth with his cane. "Perhaps Dursna
will make trouble during your Test for Wisdom today."
"What's this 'Test for Wisdom,'?" Scott asked.
"What does it have to do with me?"
"Today is High Court Day at the palace, remember? You're
supposed to take a test in front of a great audience of bours."
"Why the great crowd?" Scott asked.
"To prove you do indeed possess royal wisdom. Then
King Rob will pronounce you governor of the Eastern Barrens."
"What's the test like?" Scott asked.
"Usually it's easy. Simple. You should be able to pass
it easily." Mosaul raised up a little, his chest out with a touch
of pride. "I worked hard as your royal mentor to teach you well."
Then Mosaul's shoulders slumped. "Yet now you have the fever and
seem to remember nothing, absolutely nothing!"
Actually, the idea of going to the Eastern Barrens didn't
appeal to Scott. He was, though, a bit curious about all of this.
"We must hurry to the palace," Mosaul said. There
we'll meet your sister, the Princess Mary Anne, and go to the High Court."
"My sister's at the palace?" Scott asked excitedly.
"Of course," Mosaul replied.
"Why didn't you mention this before?" Scott asked.
Scott now was excited that he might reunite with his sister
Ann. Then she could help him figure out the code words. Then they would
escape and return to earth alive.
"The palace is not far away," Mosaul said temptingly.
"How far?" Scott asked.
"Not far," Mosaul replied. He stared at Scott sadly. "You
must surely have the fever."
"What makes you think that?" Scott asked.
"You usually aren't so anxious to see your sister.
You often fight."
"Where can I find her?" Scott asked.
"You see that building up ahead?" Mosaul asked.
His vision was a bit fuzzy, but Scott saw a vague shape jutting into
the sky. "I think so," Scott replied.
"She'll be there," Mosaul said.
Scott hurried off toward where his sister was supposed to
be. Not waiting for Mosaul, he plowed forward until he reached the building.
Gasping for breath, he stopped when he saw a young female
pig-like creature with her back toward him.
She turned around upon hearing him. She wore a dark purple
robe and golden silk slippers. The system of computers would cast us
in roles as brother and sister, prince and princess, wouldn't it, Scott
thought to himself.
"You're Princess Mary Anne, right?" Scott asked
in between gasps.
She shrank back. "My brother, what's the matter with
you?" She wore a puzzled expression on her face.
"I'm so glad to find you. We just need to figure out
the code words as fast as we can and get out of here."
"Code words?" Princess Mary Anne repeated with
a puzzled tone.
"Yes, Ann, to leave Star Park, remember?"
"Don't you remember, Ann?" Scott asked.
"What's 'Star Park' and why do you want us to leave
it?" Princess Mary Anne asked.
"Don't you remember outside Star Park-Mom and Dad,
"My brother," the Princess replied, "here
is home. King Rob is our father, the palace our home, the Land of the
Bours, our land." She studied Scott suspiciously. "And why
do you mention our mother who has been dead for so many years?"
"But this place's just make-believe," Scott said.
"It's just an adventure and we need to quit playing it."
"An adventure?" the Princess replied. "My
brother, this is all there is. All you see is all there is."
"No, there's more, much more!" Scott said with
a pleading tone.
The Princess changed expression suddenly, as if she thought
she perhaps had guessed what was occurring. "Is this some kind
of assignment that Mosaul has put you up to, some philosophy assignment,
or creative storytelling?"
Scott didn't understand why his sister had lost her memory.
Maybe she truly had this 'fever' Mosaul had repeatedly mentioned. Perhaps
there was such a thing in this virtual-reality world.
"No," Scott replied. "This isn't an assignment,
"Then creative storytelling?" Princess Mary Anne
"No, this isn't creative storytelling."
"Then why are you calling me this new name 'Ann'?"
Princess Mary Anne asked. She blurted this out with growing frustration.
"Ann, please..." Scott replied, shaking his head
because she didn't understand him.
"Quit calling me 'Ann'," Princess Mary Anne answered.
She shook her head as well.
"You know I'm called Mary Anne. Why in the world do
you suddenly start calling me just 'Ann'?"
At this second Mosaul scrambled into view.
"Mosaul," Princess Mary Anne cried, "does
Prince Eric have the fever?"
"Yes," Mosaul answered gravely. He tapped his
cane on the ground solemnly and shook his head.
"Oh, what are we going to do?" Princess Mary Anne
"I will teach Prince Eric as much as I possibly can,
as soon as possible," Mosaul answered kindly. "Don't worry."
"But," the Princess objected, "if he doesn't
remember anything how can he pass the Test for Wisdom?"
"Prince Eric must simply follow my instructions,"
"I just won't take this Test for Wisdom, then,"
"You just don't remember!" Mosaul exclaimed. "To
not appear at the High Court today means to automatically forfeit your
"But what if I fail this test?" Scott asked, a
chilling shiver shooting up his spine.