There was once a duke - stop kicking the seat and be quiet, I’m telling it. There was once a duke who captured a mysterious stranger with iron skin. This stranger had fought and defeated many of the duke’s hunters, first one and then another and then three and then five - for the duke was very offended that his hunters were being beaten and kept sending more. Finally when he had sent out twelve soldiers, these overcame the iron stranger, and bound him, and bore him away to the duke’s palace. There the duke gave orders that he was to be placed in a cage deep in the palace garden, and forbade the door ever to be opened, on pain of death; and the keycard he kept in his family’s rooms in the palace.
Now the duke had a son, eight standard years old, who often played in the garden. One day while he was playing, he steered his little flying skyhopper too hard around the fountain and right into the iron stranger’s cage, where it struck the stranger’s shoulder with a clang! and woke him.
The boy ran round the corner with the remote and stopped in dismay when he saw the skyhopper fallen into the cage; but he gathered his courage and ran up to it and said: “That’s mine. Give it back. Please,” he added, for he couldn’t tell what the man in the cage was thinking, and thought he might be angry at having been woken.
“Is it?” said the iron stranger. “I’ll trade you: open my door.”
“Oh, I can’t do that,” said the boy. “The duke said nobody must open it, ever. He was awfully mad about the hunters,” he added, and ran off to find something else to play.
The next day he wandered in the garden, and coming to round the corner of the fountain to where the cage was, he went up to it again and asked for his skyhopper. But the iron stranger said: “Not until you’ve opened my door.”
“Can’t,” said the boy. “The duke said nobody must open it, or they will certainly be put to death.” But he stood talking for a while, and listening to the iron man’s tales of strange creatures and strange sights and the many worlds of the great wide galaxy, till the sun was low and he went in to find supper.
The third day, he wandered in the garden again, still quite alone - more even than before, for the duke had flown out over the forest to hunt, and the palace was half-empty, and the gardens entirely empty - except for the iron man still in the cage.
Somewhat bored, and somewhat unhappy - though he would not have said it, for he was accustomed to being left alone - he made his way through the garden, and stood a while throwing stones from the path into the fountain. But after a time he came round the corner of the fountain to where the cage stood, and went up to it, and said: “Won’t you give me back my skyhopper? I can’t open the door, you know, even if I wanted to. I don’t have the keycard.”
“Really?” said the iron man. “You have the run of this place, and people here hardly look at you or see you. You’re telling me you don’t have any idea where it might be?”
The boy shuffled his feet, and stuck his hands in his pockets, and finally shrugged. “Maybe.”
So the boy went and took the keycard from his parents’ room, and brought it to the cage, and opened the door. Then the iron man stepped out, and handed the boy his little skyhopper, ruffled his hair, and went to go.
But the boy was afraid, and cried after him: “Oh, don’t go away! The duke said anybody who opens the door will be killed.” So the iron man turned back, lifted him up, set him on his shoulder, and went with hasty steps through the garden to the farthest gate, and into the forest.