There was yet another stool- this one the most comfortable-looking yet- not five paces past the door. And there upon it was the spindle. I sighed, and looked around. Surely not even the creature could spin all of this before the morning, regardless of whether or not I had anything of value to trade it. And I had no illusions what would happen to me, were any left unspun. And if, somehow, it did manage it, with its hideous pain-fed-magic, was the alternative any better? Marriage. I had never wanted marriage, and I certainly didn’t wish to be married to that horrible man who wore the crown. I shuddered, well and truly trapped.
“It is unhappy,” the voice, inappropriately cheerful, came from my feet, and I looked down to see the creature rubbing up against my skirts like a distorted cat. I flicked the skirts at it, and darted away with a hissing giggle. “Yes yes,” it said, and scrambled up on the stool to survey the room. “So unhappy. One is also unhappy with this lack of vision.” It sighed deeply. “Still, one wants to help. Yes yes. One will help, if it wants.”
“I have nothing left to trade,” I snapped. The creature opened its mouth into that terrible, sharp-toothed grin.
“It has its word,” it said.
“What is that supposed to mean?” I sank down into the straw, annoyed by the many layers beneath my too-heavy gown.
“It has nothing left,” the creature said patiently, “Except its word.”
“Yes yes. One would accept the magic words of a promise, in trade for one’s greatest magic working yet.”
I eyed it warily. “What would I have to promise?”
“One will spin all of this,” it gestured expansively, “into the soft pretty gold, in exchange for the promise of its firstborn child.”
“I have no child,” I said, confused.
Its eyes narrowed. “It has no child at present. But ones trades for the promise of a child. One will do the work for the promise alone, for its solemn oath.” It raised a single claw, warningly. “But it must not break its oath, or the magic will turn upon it in ways too terrible to imagine. One has seen it happen. One would never dare to break a bargain.”
I remembered how careful it had been to spin every last piece of straw the previous two nights, and I believed it. My heart beat furiously in my throat as I considered the proposal: I had no desire for a child- never had. Was it really possible that the creature would do this for me, and demand no payment beyond what would never arrive? I had to be certain, of the terms, so I stared into its slanted green eyes as I asked,
“And if I never have a child?”
Again the open-mouthed grin. “Yes yes, a gamble, to be sure. It might never breed. But one appreciates a good gamble: makes the prize all the sweeter. Will it take the trade?”
I looked again at the seemingly endless piles of straw, then back at the crouched black form before me, trembling with excitement. I knew it was a trap, but couldn’t see how: something for nothing. And what choice did I have?
“Every last piece of the straw within these walls, for the promise of my firstborn child,” I said, slowly. Its eyes glinted.
“It must give its oath,” it said.
“I give you my oath,” I said, “That if you will spin all of this straw to gold before the sun rises, I will give you my firstborn child.”
Something rippled over my skin, flashing out across the creature and the building beyond.
“The bargain is struck,” hissed the creature. “One must work quickly.”