A Feast and a Tale

(WP) A Feast and a Tale

               “My
parents were right. I never should’ve taken this job. Who am I but a farm boy?
How could I think someone like me could change the world, change history? I’m a
failure.”

               The boy
throws his weapon, a sharp sword, at my feet, surrendering.

               “I give
up,” He says quietly, his voice thick, as though he is on the verge of tears. “I
never should’ve taken this job.”

               Though
I am his enemy, I cannot help but feel pity in my old, dead heart for the
child.

               “Perhaps
a story over a hot meal will revive your broken spirits, boy.” I say, standing
up from my throne and beckoning him closer. He approaches, but his eyes narrow.
“How do I know that this isn’t a trick?”

               “You
don’t. Either you break your fast with me and hear a story, or you stay here in
my throne room, feeling sorry for yourself.”

               I turn
away and summon one of my servants, a goblin in a dirty toque, and give
whispered instructions. She nods, smiling a wickedly fanged grin at my unexpected
guest. She disappears into the kitchen, barking orders in her guttural language.
I summon another servant, this one a redcap.

               “Will
you please make the boy presentable before our meal? And do be gentle, he is
our guest, not a prisoner.” Without a word, the redcap marches the boy toward
the baths, his protests bouncing off of the stone walls.

               **

               The
table is set for two, and my creatures populate the rest of the empty seats, creating
a grotesque parody of a feast. The wayward farm boy sits down. His face is
clean, and he is dressed in a silk suit, a bleeding-heart bloom pinned to his
lapel. He watches me carefully, eyes sweeping the table.

               “You
said that you were going to tell me a story,” He says quietly, and in the
background, my servants begin serving the food: rich, dark bread slathered with
butter, bean soup flavored with oxtail and wine, a whole haunch of roast beef
served with pan drippings. “I’m listening.”

               He
grows so quiet that all I can hear is the quiet scrape of cutlery against china
I haven’t used in years, and without further ado, I begin my tale.

               **

               “I was
not always The Dread Witch of the Bane Lands, boy. I was born to a rich
nobleman and a palace servant, and after being left by my father, my mother
sought to teach me all she knew. She taught me to read the stars and to harness
the powers of nature and the elements… For good or ill, the choice was mine.
That was all my mother could give me, a choice.”

               “But
then my father brought her back to the palace on the pretense that his first
wife had passed away, and that he wished to marry her. He demanded I be brought
also; he’d had no children, so with the woman’s death, I would be declared legitimate.”

The boy is silent, watching me, eyes
wide and face pale, as if he’s dreading my next words.

“But it was all a lie. He had my
mother killed to pay recompense to his wife, to erase the indiscretion of his
straying. He agreed to kill the woman who birthed me, but he refused to kill
me. Instead, he tried to raise me in the ways of the court. It went well for
him, I suppose, until I decided to take my mother’s legacy.”

“At sixteen, I was betrothed to an
old lord, sold to the highest bidder as if I was nothing more than chattel.”

The farm boy has cleaned his plate,
and my servants quickly replenish it.

“What happened next?” He asks
quietly, swallowing hard.

“I killed him on our wedding night,
when he tried to take what he wanted, rather than ask for it. And after that
day, I became The Witch of the Bane Lands, Scourge to all Life and Light.”

**