Telling Tales 204
A Change of Voice
Their doom notwithstanding, none of the three daughters was willing to tie herself in marriage to Conomor. Their father explained to them in no uncertain terms what he had done and took the blame fully. “Not that it matters,” he wept, “for unless one of you will wed him, we are all his victims.” Indeed, the blue brute had said that on the fourth day, should one of the traveler’s daughters not appear at his palace, he would find his way to their home and take it apart, brick by brick, stone by stone, hair by hair, and bone by bone. “I cannot compel any of you, but I must beg, plead that it is not my life that is at stake alone, but that of your blameless mother. Will one of you be brave enough to shoulder this burden that I have settled upon us all?”
It was the middle daughter, who, in the end, acquiesced, or so she told my friend in these words.
* * *
Do not imagine that I am a good person. I would like to think that I am good, of course, but not remarkably so. I am not exceptional. I did not wish to come here and I do not expect that I will live to see my family again. I am not even convinced that Lord Conomor will not go back on his word and destroy my family regardless.
No, that is not it. I have as much to live for as my sisters. I have as many dreams and as much in my life so far to think that I will have a good life. Would have, had I not come here. But here in this enchanted palace is where I will end my days, and sooner rather than later.
Why did I choose to be my family’s sacrifice? I don’t know. I truly don’t. Perhaps I am the weakest. I was the first to crack in my defiance. If I had held out longer, another few hours, one of my other sisters might have been the one and not me.
That is a foolish question. Of course, I resent them. My father for his foolishness that brought my family to this pass, my sisters for… for not being as weak as I am. I do not wish death upon them. That is why I chose to step forward, I suppose. But I do wish misery. I wish them the same horror that I feel with every breath in this terrible place.
Provide me with pen and paper, if you please
A testament. For my family. So they know and so that they feel.
* * *
She arrived at the castle before midnight, but only just. Her horse was wet with sweat, as was her father’s. He had refused to let her travel alone, though he was sure that Conomor’s threats to their family would see her safe upon the road. “I hope you can forgive me someday,” he said in a low, shamed voice.
Of course, she said she could. She didn’t mean it. She would never forgive him, but even in that moment she could not bring herself to say so to his face
The palace rose above them in the night, a darker black than the sky itself, with no moon to show their way in the cloudless sky.
“It was the storm that blew me here, I am sure of it,” went on her helpless father.
Yes, she thought. The storm. It is always another’s fault, but the consequences are the same for the innocent.