(See intro here)

Know you the story of the straw maiden? Perhaps it is known to you as a different name, but while another would say no matter, I say it does. Names hold power and this story will show you how much.

Long ago, under a harvest moon, a fairy happened upon a birth. The fairy was new to the world of men and was intrigued by the baby. Her name was one with which he was unfamiliar, so he thought of her as the Bright One. As she grew, the fairy would look in on her from time to time. The fairy learned of the Bright One’s love of nature and her dislike of the small, confined space of the mill. He shared in her joys and felt all her sorrows, but always at a discreet distance. Her worst sorrow was the death of her mother and consequently when all her troubles began.

The miller was pained by the loss of his wife and took to late nights of drinking and bluster. It came to pass, as it usually does with those whose tongues loosen with drink, that he boasted of his daughter.

“Her beauty and skills are truly remarkable. She would have made her mother proud,” he said on more than one occasion. And while there were those who had heard his remarks previously remained silent, there were newcomers to the tavern. Sadly these strangers became mean and abusive when fueled by drink.

“What talent could she possibly have that other maids don’t? Go home old man – perhaps that talented daughter of yours can cure your addled mind!” laughed a stranger along with his companions. They laughed uproariously making the man feel shame. Perhaps a naughty imp was hiding in the corner of that tavern or maybe the miller did lose his wits for a moment, for none – not even he – could explain what he said next.

“My daughter has a wondrous gift. She can spin straw into gold. What’s more her beauty and talent are fit for a king!” Now most of the patrons laughed quietly to themselves having known the miller and her daughter for years. However, there was a table with a single man who took note.

Conall was a matchmaker whose circumstances had him in a desperate situation. He had promised a king in a neighboring realm an amazing bride and was nearing the end of his deadline. Not to mention he was in competition with another matchmaker for the bride price. Quickly and quietly, he settled his account and offered the tavern keeper a handsome sum for the name and location of the mill. Then with all haste, he raced off to see the king.

Days passed and the miller forgot his boasts in the tavern. Therefore it was with some surprise that he found two armed riders with livery accompanied by an unarmed gentleman waiting at his mill. He was further confused when they asked after his daughter. The gentleman, who admitted to being a matchmaker, looked nervous and stole furtive glances at the riders who had their hands on their sword hilts.

…To Be Continued…

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