The Three Swords

The Three Swords

A Story by Harris
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A fairy tale in the classic tradition.

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     The Three Swords
     
    Part 1�"The Carpenter’s Daughters
     
     Once there was a carpenter who lived with his three daughters in a small cottage on the edge of a vast, dark forest. The carpenter was a skilled furniture maker whose work was prized by the rich aristocrats in the city. His name was Tom and he was a widower ever since his wife was lost in the forest. He suspected she was taken by evil spirits who haunted the dark wood.
     The three daughters whose names were: Liana, the youngest, a dark haired, dark eyed beauty of 16 summers; Adriana, the middle child, a gorgeous young woman of 17 autumns, had flaming red hair and sparkling green eyes; and Pearl, the oldest and perhaps the most beautiful daughter of 20 Winters, with fair skin, blond hair and the palest blue eyes.
     Tom and his three daughters worked together in the shop making furniture from wood they found in the forest and had hauled to the saw mill by the river. The mill sawed the tree trunks into boards and Tom and the girls fashioned the lumber into chairs, and chests and cabinets of excellent craftsmanship, finely joined and polished pieces fit for a palace.
     One day a wealthy prince arrived from the city and asked to see what furniture Tom had for sale. He looked over a few pieces all the while examining the three young daughters. His eyes mostly fell on Pearl who returned his gaze before looking away. After looking over the carpenter’s wares, the Prince said he didn’t see what he was looking for. “Tell me what it is you want,” said Tom, “I’m sure my girls and I can make it for you.”
     “Oh, I don’t know,” said the Prince. “I’m looking for something very special.”
     “We can make anything,” said Tom, “anything at all.”
     “Well,” said the Prince, “when I was born, a soothsayer told my parents that I should lie on a bed made from the wood of a lightening struck tree, sit on a chair from a half burnt tree and dine at a table of a wind twisted tree and only then would I find my true destiny. Do you have any pieces that match that description?”
     Tom had to admit he hadn’t any wood like that, “But if you can wait a while, I’ll look for trees like those you describe the next time I go into the woods.”
     “I’m willing to pay three times your usual price if you can match the soothsayer’s request,” said the Prince.
     “Leave it to us,” said the old carpenter. “Come back in three months and we’ll have something for you.”
     The next day Tom and Liana went into the woods to look for a lightening struck tree. They searched high on hillsides and along the tops of ridges but couldn’t find what they were looking for. It was summer and Tom was getting weary of the hunt. He sat down on a fallen log to rest while Liana went ahead and climbed another hill.
     Suddenly the sky darkened, a thunder cloud blocked out the sun. With a loud crash of thunder and a flash of lightening a great oak tree was struck right before Liana’s eyes. She came running back to tell her father and together they went to see it. It was an ancient oak tree and its top half was blown completely away by the force of the lightening blast. They marked the spot and went to fetch the wood cutter and his team of horses and led them to the exploded oak.
     The woodcutter and his sons cut down the ancient oak and the horses dragged it to the saw mill. Tom was happy to have found the lightening struck tree and turned to congratulate Liana on their good fortune but the girl was no where to be found. She had disappeared completely just like her mother. The evil spirits of the forest had snatched her away.
     At the saw mill the great tree was sliced into boards and the boards delivered to the carpenter’s shop. There, with much sadness and toil, it was fashioned into a bed for the Prince.
     When three months had passed, the Prince came for his bed. He was delighted with the workmanship and the carving of the lightening bolt on the headboard. He gladly paid Tom triple the price and as his men loaded the heavy bed onto his wagon he asked the carpenter if he could find a half burnt tree and fashion a few chairs from the wood. “I’m willing to pay handsomely for your time and effort,” said the Prince.
     “Leave it to us,” said the old man. “Come back in three months and we’ll have something for you.”
     So the Prince shook Tom’s hand, climbed on his horse and followed his wagon home.
     In the fall, Tom and Adriana went into the woods to look for a half burnt tree while keeping an eye out for Liana, his youngest daughter. It was autumn, the trees were filled with color and crisp leaves littered the ground. They looked where there had been great forest fires in years past and found only the burnt husks of dead trees. But, after a great deal of looking, they found a huge maple tree scarred on one side by fire yet still alive. Its crown of leaves as red as if it were still ablaze. They called for the wood cutter and his team of horses and led them to the half burnt tree.
     The woodcutter and his sons cut down the huge maple and the horses dragged it out of the forest. Tom was happy to have found the half burnt tree and turned to congratulate Adriana on their good fortune but, look and call as he may, the girl was no where to be found. She had disappeared completely just like her mother and her sister. The evil spirits of the forest had snatched her away.
     The woodcutters dragged the great maple to the saw mill where it was sliced into boards and delivered to the carpenter’s shop. There, with much sadness and toil, it was fashioned into six fine chairs for the Prince.
       When three months had passed, the Prince came to pick up his chairs. He was delighted with the fine craftsmanship and especially admired the carving of flames on each chair’s back. He gladly paid Tom triple the price while his men loaded the heavy chairs in to the wagon, he asked the carpenter if he could find a wind twisted tree and fashion a table from it. “I’m willing to pay a handsome price for your time and effort,” said the Prince.
        “Leave it to us,” said the old man. “Come back in three months and we’ll have something for you.”
     So the Prince shook Tom’s hand, climbed on his horse and followed his wagon home.
     It was winter and wind and storm made travel through the forest unpleasant. Deep snow drifts made walking difficult but Tom and Pearl went out to search for a wind twisted tree all the while keeping an eye out for Pearl’s missing sisters. They found many trees the wind had knocked over, their great trunks flat on the icy ground and their roots in the air but of the missing girls they saw no sign.
     Finally, after much searching they came upon a hollow deep in the forest. A place surrounded by steep hills where the wind was made to swirl around. There they found an enormous pine tree that grew in a spiral, its trunk and branches twisted around like a corkscrew. “That is our tree,” said Tom. So they marked the spot and went in search of the wood cutter and his sons and led them to the twisted pine.
     The woodcutter and his sons cut down the enormous tree and the horses dragged it out of the forest. Tom was happy to have found the tree and turned to congratulate Pearl on their good fortune but, look and call as he may, the girl was no where to be found. She had disappeared completely just like her mother and her sisters. The evil spirits of the forest had snatched her away.
     The woodcutters dragged the great pine to the saw mill where it was sliced into boards and delivered to the carpenter’s shop. There, with much sadness and toil, it was fashioned into a marvelous table for the Prince.
     When three months had passed, the Prince came to pick up his table. He was delighted with the fine craftsmanship and especially admired the twisted grain of the wood which looked like wind itself. He gladly paid Tom triple the price; while his men loaded the heavy table onto the wagon, he asked the carpenter, “Where are your lovely daughters? I would like to thank them for all their hard work.”
     At the mention of his daughters, the old carpenter began to weep so pitifully, it was all the Prince could do to comfort him. “There, there,” the Prince said holding the weeping carpenter in his arms. “Tell me what makes you so sad?” And so Tom told the Prince how the evil spirits had taken his wife years ago and then his daughters one by one as they hunted for the Prince’s trees.
     The Prince was struck dumb. After a while he managed to say, “Why then, it’s my fault that your daughters are gone. I will do what ever I can to find them.” So the Prince shook Tom’s hand, climbed on his horse and followed his wagon home.
     
     Part 2�" The Quest
     
     The Prince returned to his castle but he couldn’t shake off the feeling of gloom whenever he saw his beautiful furniture. When he slept in his lightening struck bed he dreamed fitful dreams filled with howling spirits and sobbing women. When he sat in his half burnt chair he felt the fear and longing of the captured sisters. And when he ate at his beautiful wind twisted table, he felt so guilty he could barely eat a thing. He could raise an army but where would he lead it? The forest was bigger than anyone knew, largely unexplored and filled with mystery. The Prince felt helpless, unable to act.
     One night as he lay in his bed a dream came to him. It was Liana, the carpenter’s youngest daughter. She appeared before him and said, “Oh Prince. Please come and save me. You must ask my father to fashion a sword from the lightening struck tree. When the time comes, you will know what to do.” Then Liana’s image dissolved into air and the Prince was left with more sadness than ever.
     “Where are you?” he called to the fading image but instead of an answer he heard the laughter of evil spirits and the anguished cries of the frightened girls.  
     All that day, the Prince paced the floor thinking about his dream, finally falling into a fitful sleep in one of his beautiful maple chairs. As the Prince sat a dream came to him. It was Adriana, the carpenters, middle daughter. She too appeared before him and said, “Oh Prince. Please come and save me. You must ask my father to fashion a sword from the half burnt tree. When the time comes, you will know what to do.” Then Adriana’s image dissolved into air and the Prince was left with more questions than ever.
      “Where are you?” he called to the fading image but instead of an answer he heard the laughter of evil spirits and the tormented cries of the frightened girls.
      Still feeling helpless and confused, the Prince sat at his table of twisted wood and tried to eat. He knew he had to eat to keep up his strength but food tasted like straw in his mouth and he could find no comfort in it. He called for wine and after drinking several glasses grew drowsy and put his head upon the table and slept.
      As he slept, a dream came to him. It was Pearl, the carpenter’s oldest daughter, she too repeated the same words as her sisters saying, “Oh Prince. Please come and save me. You must ask my father to fashion a sword from the twisted tree. When the time comes, you will know what to do.” This time, before her image faded, the Prince asked Pearl, “Where are you?” and Pearl replied, “west, go west and look for signs.” Then she was gone in a swirl of cries and evil laughter.
      The Prince awoke and for the first time in many weeks was filled with hope and purpose. He saddled his best horse and rode as fast as he could to the carpenter’s house. He found Tom in his workshop, a big pile of saw dust and shavings at his feet. He told the old man about his visions and that he was going to head west as soon as he had the three wooden swords.
      “I think there is just enough wood left to do the job,” said Tom. He too felt hopeful for the first time in many months. He dug around in the corners of his shop for scraps of the wood he remembered so well. First he found a single oak board from the lightening struck tree. He drew the outline of a sword on the board and carefully cut it out. Then he carved the sword’s grip and fashioned its blade until it was a perfect replica of a real knight’s sword. Then he did the same for the half burnt maple and the twisted pine. After three days work, the Prince had three wooden swords plus a real one made from steel. He found a way to keep all four swords on his person even though it made him look foolish.
      “Now what will you do?” asked Tom.
      “Head west,” replied the Prince without the slightest hesitation. And so saying the old man grasped the Prince’s hand and, with tears in his eyes, wished him well. And just like that, the Prince headed west into the forest.
      The Prince traveled west for twelve days. He slept near streams for water and lived on fruits and nuts he gathered along the way. He followed whatever trails that took him in a westerly direction. Sometimes there were no trails at all and the Prince had to chop his own path through the forest. The deeper into the forest he went, the more difficult travel became. The forest did what it could to make the Prince’s life miserable�" sending plagues of biting insects, placing impenetrable thorn bushes and muddy swamps in his path. But the Prince was undaunted, he knew that every step was taking him closer to his goal. On the thirteenth day he found a sign.
      Snagged on a branch, a scarf of the palest blue fluttered in the breeze. He had come to a fork in the road. The fluttering scarf fluttered seemed to point to the right regardless of the wind’s direction. The Prince took the scarf and tucked it in his blouse and turned his horse to the right. Later that afternoon, he found another scarf caught on a branch. This scarf was the palest yellow and it told him to go left which he did. In the evening he came to a clearing. In the middle of the clearing were the remains of an old stone tower. The clearing was empty, but on a crumbling wall was a scarf of the palest green. This scarf hung limply pointing neither left nor right regardless of how the breeze blew. He took this to mean he was to stay right there and that was what he did.
      
      Part 3�" The Battle
      
      The Prince made camp just outside the clearing and settled down for the night. It was just after dark when he was awaken by a rumbling deep in the earth. He scrambled to his feet and ran to the clearing. What he saw chilled him mightily. Rising from the earth was a stone tower. It rose higher and higher until it was as tall as the tallest tree. When it finally stopped, a wooden door opened at its base and a ghost-like apparition walked out into the moonlight. It was, the Prince knew, one of the evil spirits that make the forest so dangerous a place.
      The Prince didn’t know if he could defeat a spirit with his sword, but he was willing to try. He drew his steel blade and boldly stepped into the clearing. The evil spirit was on him in a second.
      “Who goes there?” it howled in a voice like thunder.
      “It is I, Prince Rudolph of Velm and I have come to slay you and all your kind.”
      “Ha! Silly mortal, You think you can defeat me with that blade?” Then the spirit gave a laugh that cracked the sky, a lightening bolt flashed from its fingers and the Prince’s sword melted into a pile of cinders.
      “Ha! Steel cannot harm me, foolish human. There’s only one thing that can hurt me and I’ll never tell what it is. Now prepare to die.” And the spirit grew even bigger and more frightening as it gathered its power for the final blow.
      The Prince now realized what he must do. He drew the sword made from the lightening struck tree and plunged it deep into the evil spirit’s heart. The spirit opened its mouth to scream but it vanished before it could utter a sound, snuffed out like a light.
      The Prince opened the wooden door at the tower’s base and began walking up the winding stairs as quietly as he could. The stairs ended at another wooden door. This door opened on a large room with an enormous fireplace. A fire burned away but the room appeared to be deserted. The Prince took the opportunity to look around. He was in a kitchen of some sort. Cooking pans hung from hooks along the walls and he saw counters and tables filled with food. When he saw the food he remembered how little he had eaten in the past two weeks and was seized with a ferocious hunger. He took a slice of bread from a plate and brought it to his lips.
      The instant he took a bite of the bread, the spirit hiding in the fireplace jumped out at him. “Who goes there?” it howled in a voice like a roaring fire.
      The Prince was frightened and grabbed a large knife from the table with which to defend himself. “It is I, Prince Rudolph of Velm and I have come to slay you and all your kind,” the Prince said bravely.
      “Ha! You think you can defeat me with that blade, silly human?” Then the spirit gave a laugh that shook the room, a ribbon of flame shot from its fingers and the Prince’s knife turned into a pile of cinders.
      “Steel cannot harm me, foolish human. There’s only one thing that can hurt me and I’ll never tell what it is. Now prepare to die.” And the spirit grew even bigger and more frightening as it gathered its power for the final blow.
      The Prince realized what he had to do. He drew the sword made from the half burnt tree and plunged it deep into the evil spirit’s heart. The spirit opened its mouth to scream but it vanished before it could utter a sound, snuffed out like a candle’s flame.
      Beyond the kitchen were more steps spiraling upwards to another wooden door. He carefully pushed the door open and looked inside. There were dozens of people inside mostly young women but, looking closer, he saw a few boys and a few grandmothers. Amongst the crowd were Tom’s three missing daughters. The Prince realized that he had found all the people the evil spirits had stolen over the years. There did not appear to be a spirit guarding them, so the Prince strode into the room. It was a big mistake.
      With a blast of wind, the door slammed closed behind him. Another blast pinned the Prince to the wall. He realized that he was facing another evil spirit. This one was a spirit of wind. “Who goes there?” it howled in a voice like a hurricane.
      The Prince was frightened and drew his final sword from his belt. “It is I, Prince Rudolph of Velm and I have come to slay you and all your kind,” the Prince said bravely.
       “Ha! You think you can defeat me with a wooden sword, silly human?” Then the spirit gave a laugh that shook the tower itself. A blast of air shot from its fingers and the Prince’s sword flew from his grip landing across the room. “Ha! Foolish mortal, there’s only one thing that can hurt me and I’ll never tell what it is. Now prepare to die.” And the spirit grew even bigger and more frightening as it gathered its power for the final blow.
      The Prince was brave and stood his ground but, without his sword, he was helpless. He closed his eyes, fully expecting to be blown from the tower to his death. When that didn’t happen, he opened his eyes to find the spirit slain and Pearl, the carpenter’s oldest daughter, standing with the sword in her hand. She had pierced the evil spirit through its heart and it vanished like a puff of air.
      
      Part 4�"Happily Ever After
      
      There were no more evil spirits, the captives were free. The Prince led them from the tower just before dawn. When dawn broke, the tower sank back into the earth never to rise again. The Prince led the group back the way he had come�" through the muddy swamp, past the thorn bushes and through the path he hacked in the forest. Whenever they arrived at a crossroads and didn’t know which way to go, the Prince would take out one of the scarves he had tucked inside his blouse and the scarf would point the way. In this manner they made their way out of the forest and back to the places they knew.
      As they approached the towns and villages where they had lived, one or two of their number would leave the group and find their way home to their families. The further they traveled, the more tear filled goodbyes there were until the only people left were the three sisters and one old woman.
      “Who are you old woman?” asked the Prince, “And to whom do you belong?”
      “My name is Spring,” answered the woman, “and I was stolen away many years ago. I was a young mother then. I have not seen my husband and daughters for many years.”
      It was at this point that the girls realized that the old woman was their mother who was taken by the spirits when they were babies. This reunion was the cause for much rejoicing. But it paled in comparison to the out right jubilation of being reunited with their father. The three girls rushed into his arms with squeals of joy the likes of which you can only imagine. Then the girls took their father by the hand and brought him to Spring who was waiting a little way down the road. They knew each other instantly and embraced one another for a good long time.
      Old Tom was besides himself with joy He couldn’t believe his good fortune. He not only had his three daughters back but his long missing wife as well. He didn’t know how to thank the Prince. “There are not thanks enough in the world for what you have done,” said the old carpenter, tears of joy running down his cheeks. “You have given my life back to me. If there is ever anything I can do for you, you need only to ask.”
      “There is one thing you can give me,” answered the Prince smiling.
      “Name it,” said Tom, “and if its in my power, it’s yours.”
      “I would like your blessing, sir,” said the Prince, “for I would have your daughter, Pearl, for my bride.”
      Pearl ran to him then and they both looked so young and happy, old Tom was hard pressed to contain his joy. He looked over to Spring, Pearl’s mother and asked, “What say you, dear wife? Should we give them our blessings?”
      Spring nodded and said they should. And there was much embracing, hand shaking and joyful laughter late into the night. Toasts were drunk and laughter filled the little cottage for the first time in many years. And so it came to pass that the Prince and the wood worker’s daughter were wed and, of course, they lived happily ever after.

THE END
      
      
       
     
     
       
      
     
     
     
     
     
    

© 2011 Harris


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I like it too. Very original.

Posted 13 Years Ago


I really like this story!! It's a cute fairy tale that makes me smile :)

Posted 13 Years Ago



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Added on May 6, 2011
Last Updated on May 6, 2011

Author

Harris
Harris

Charlottesville, VA



About
Writing away in Charlottesville. Two crime novels published so far, a dozen children's books and piles of short stories. more..

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