The Oathbreaker (The Second Draft)

 I had an idea for a story.  I started to write it.  Then I started to re-write it.  What follows is from that second pass.  I've since started re-writing it yet again, so you'll see the result of that in a few days (or more).


My mother was a wise woman, who taught me many things before she died.  First and foremost, she taught me those skills necessary to the running of a household, including the all-important art of spinning.  It was her favorite chore: not even a chore, to her mind, and after she was gone I spent many hours with the spindle that had once been hers, finding comfort in the familiar twist and drop.  It was these skills that ensured her daughter would grow to be a respectable woman of the village.

But because she was a wise woman, my mother also taught me the names of things.  The plants in the fields and woods, the stars in the sky, the secret emotions that ruled the men and women around us.  "To know the name of a thing, my daughter, is to have some measure of control over it," she would tell me.  "Never have truck with a thing who will not reveal its name, for surely only suffering will follow."

My father was a miller, and knew nothing of the secrets of the natural world, but his own set of skills ensured that we lived better than many of the families in our little corner of the kingdom.  Certainly we always had enough to pay the tax collector, and even have enough left over to let me keep and care for my own tiny flock of goats.  Their names, for I have just told you the important of names, were Hazel, Rowan, and Yew, and I loved them dearly.

Although I prized them more for their companionship than their wool, their wool was in fact quite lovely, and it was their wool that saved us when the mill-stone cracked.  Saved us, and cursed me.

With no millstone, my father was reduced to milling small amounts by hand until a new millstone could be delivered.  Milling by hand was a job anyone could do, however, and so few people felt the need to pay my father to do it.  And my father, while a very good miller, had no other wage-earning skills.  Purchasing our new stone took all of our silver reserves and more; the stone itself could not be delivered before the spring, but we were in danger of starving before that time.


Except that I went around the village, collecting straw, which people could not eat but my goats could and did.  And I kept them fat, and sang to them, and coaxed them by their names, and all that winter I brushed and brushed their gleaming coats, and the yarn I got from that wool was the finest I'd ever produced.  I sold it, for far more than my father would have earned milling, and we did not starve.

When the new millstone was delivered, my father, so proud and relieved that he could not bear it, made the mistake of taking one drink too many at the tavern.  And he said to a group of his friends, men whose wives had given me straw in our time of need, but not meat, "Yes, indeed, my daughter spun that straw right into gold!"

A stranger down the bar cocked his head at this.  "Excuse me dear man, did I hear you correctly?  Your daughter spun gold... from straw?"

The tavern erupted into laughter.

"That she did!" bellowed my father, those around him cheering in support.  "How else do you suppose a humble miller like myself could afford buy a drink for every one of his friends?"  Said friends cheered even more loudly at this, and the stranger was forgotten in the revelry.

But he did not forget my father.  And he did not forget me.

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