The Tale of the Two Sisters

The Tale of the Two Sisters

No Place in Group 3 • Fairy Tale / A delivery / A migrant worker

Synopsis: Through hard work and great skill Rufus has acquired his fortune, but that is not enough to satisfy his greed.  He seeks to make a magical woman his wife, one who can grant him everlasting life.   


Once upon a time in the tiny border village of Fendowen, there was an inn run by two sisters of magical birth.  The eldest was Leda, giver of encompassing joy.  The youngest was Eva, giver of  everlasting life.

Eva was by far the fairer of the two, and her heart had been won by a fine young sailor by the name of Max.   

“I’ll never have a fortune nor a kingdom,” he confessed.  “But I work hard and I’m no spendthrift nor wastrel.”

Eva knew this to be true, but she also worried, for the seas were dangerous and had claimed many good shipmen.  “But when will you return?”

“Pray fortune guides me this voyage and summer shall see me home.”

And so Eva agreed.

Max left Fendowen, carrying with him the knowledge that come next year, Eva would be his bride.


But young Max wasn’t the only suitor setting his sights on Eva. Years of toil and travel had made Rufus a brutal and unhappy man, despite the wealth he’d gained.  For the highest of wages were for those who harvested the grapes and knew their best flavor, and for this Rufus had been rewarded generously across many lands.    

Rumor reached him of a beautiful girl in a prosperous village who had the power to stop a man from dying.  Greed compelled him.  To escape death was a prize he must win; Eva the object he must acquire.

The journey to Fendowen was a long one, and Rufus felt no need to rush, despite the allure of the conquest.  He dallied in taverns where he enjoyed the finest spirits, and in his inebriation, he confided his plans until they became common knowledge spoken by common folk.

News of the seeker reached the sisters ahead of him.  It was told an unpleasant libertine, who left unpaid bills in his wake, was after life immortal.  He was of vile disposition, according to all reports, with naught to recommend him.

“But I am promised,” Eva proclaimed.

“But not yet wed,” said Leda.

“He has no love of me.”

The sisters despaired of what action to take.  They could not decamp for they had nowhere to go; they could not enlist an army as the village was a small one.

Into the wee hours, they fretted, until finally—as the sun rose over the horizon—the sisters made their fateful decision.


Rufus approached the village gate invigorated by the nearness of his victory.

“Ho there, stranger.  What be your business in Fendowen?”

Rufus laid a hand on the hilt of his sword and gave the sentry his most winning smile.  “I’ve come for the enchantress, Eva.”

“Aye, so you’re the adventurer we’ve heard about.  Mayhap, I should tell you that Eva’s not likely to encourage your advances.  She’s promised to a sailor from Tarnakey.”

Rufus disregarded the sentry’s warning and reached the Fox and Forage just as twilight fell.  Through the gloom he saw a raven-haired woman setting the torch aglow.  She beckoned him.

“Good e’en.  You gents look hungry.  If you’ve coin, then we’ve got tucker.  You can leave the horses.  I’ll send our man.”

The inn was warm but dim, the fires burning shallow in their grates.  Tankards were already laid, and in them Rufus could see the froth of a fine brew.  In the bowls, a hot stew waited, with spoons large for best eating, and the mistress laid a fresh baguette betwixt them and did beg of them to eat.

Well-fed, Rufus made his way above stairs to his room where a bar of rosemary soap sat beside a bath curling tendrils of steam. He made his ablutions gingerly.  The ale had indeed been fine, and its potency blurred the more urgent details of his mission.  He sat in the soapy water reminding himself.  It’s Eva I’m after.

And then he saw her perched primly on a stool in the corner.  She must have been there the entire time, for he’d heard no footstep, nor door creak.

“I am Eva.  You’ve come for me.”

Confusion pulsed mutely in his mind.  She was beautiful—yes—but not the legendary beauty he’d been expecting.  Pleasant in face and form, certainly.  But not remarkable.

“Is that not correct?”

“It is.  I’m rather caught off-guard.”

“I intended as much.  I’m not interested in being wooed nor courted.”

“I will have you.  Do not doubt that I will use force.”

“I have seen you as you are and know I cannot fight you.  If you mean to pursue me, then I would that you hear my conditions.”

Rufus’s heart raced.  Those village fools.  How wrong they were!

“You will marry me this night.  You will claim the gifts you have come for with no questions.  Tomorrow, you will take me to my new home.”

She stood and came to stand by his tub.  “I will be wife to you in all ways, but you must pledge your fidelity and above all, you must never approach my sister.”

Rufus agreed easily.  What could he want of her sister?

“I will take your promise as bond.  And should you break that vow it will mean the life of our first born.”

“How do we seal this magical bond?”

“We shall be handfast.”

In a fog of heady delight he complied, and said the words as she instructed.  Then Rufus slept, dreaming of life infinite.


They left Fendowen at first light and travelled back the seven days and seven nights to the estate.  For the first time Rufus found the traveling quite enjoyable.  The sun was warm on his back each day, the breeze cooled him, streams and game were plentiful, and fellow travelers hailed them.  In the evenings, Rufus felt no need of spirits.  He was on a very fine journey, and there would be many journeys like this one, he knew.

When they at last crested the final hill and saw his estate below them, Rufus felt a new pride.  As they rode the path through his vineyard, he called out, “See wife!  See the bounty that has awaited you!”

When they passed the stables, he gestured grandly with his arm.  “And these fine creatures are all for you!”

Outside the manor house, three liveried servants emerged and lined up like dutiful soldiers.  Rufus bellowed a hearty hello and enjoined his wife to see the splendor she would enjoy.

To each entreaty she had replied favorably, but now she said, “Dearest husband, your servants do not look happy to see you’ve returned.”

Upon closer examination, Rufus had to agree with her and wondered why he’d never noticed their grim countenances.  He dismissed the concern with a silent vow that he would be a better master.  For why not?  He had all the time in the world.


Over the next months, Rufus found that eternal life quite agreed with him.  He had a robust energy and set about the tasks of each day with new purpose and vigor.  Pride bloomed in his chest each time he looked upon the shining face of his wife—for she was the most docile and obedient of women.  It seemed to him that she found no fault with him.  His servants too displayed fresh confidence in him.  He had but a few more years of traveling with the season before he could lay his trades to rest.  

The jewel in his crown, however, was the increasing belly of his wife, for she was carrying his child.  He found himself daydreaming of how his son would be wisest and best of all lads.  He would teach him to hunt and hawk and do figures.  Or mayhap a daughter!  Sons would come, eventually, after all.  And a daughter should be a shining beauty, as her mother was.  And gifted!

In anticipation of the delivery of his first born, he asked his wife,  “Will our sons and daughters have your talents?”  Should they be magical, he would have to guard them carefully from ne’er-do-wells and fortune-seekers.

“Nay, husband.  Their magic will be unique.  There is no knowing what divine gifts they may receive.”

Rufus mused cheerfully at his good fortune.  Perhaps his children would further increase his blessings.


Then, one day as Rufus studied his reflection, he saw, to his horror, there had appeared several silver hairs in his beard.

“What is this?”  he cried, and rushed to the garden where his wife sat, round with child, enjoying the warm summer morning.

“You have tricked me!” He accused.  “I am aging!  You must use your magic now to stop this!”

She looked serenely upon him.  “I have not that magic to stop your advancing years, husband.  For I am Leda, not Eva.  And I have already bestowed upon you what magic I possess.”

“You have bestowed nothing!  Charlatan!  Trickster!”

He turned from her, preparing to fetch his horse.  He would return to Fendowen and claim the correct bride.  Leda followed behind him, pleading.  “Do not do this, husband!  Have you not been happier than ever before?”

Her words fell on deaf ears.  She tried yet harder.  “Do you not remember your vow?  Your child is at stake!”

Still, he did not turn from his course.

This journey to Fendowen was ugly and bleak. No sun warmed him; no breeze cooled him.  No game trusted him, and the springs and rivers that had run so abundant were dried up.  Strangers denied him food and lodging, for they remembered his face and his profligacy.

His arrival into the village went unnoticed as crowds gathered in celebration, hanging flowers and singing of weddings and babies.

“You there,” Rufus beseeched a young maiden.  “What is this gaiety about?”

“Why!  Eva’s wedding, of course.  Max has returned to claim her hand, and tonight they will be wed at last!”

Unthinking, Rufus went in search of Max intent to slay him.  He came upon him gathering flowers in a meadow and did run him right through with his blade.  Max died where he fell.


Rufus turned to find a ferocious beauty standing in judgement upon him.  He knew it must be Eva and that she had born witness to the murder he had done.

“I’ve come to claim you.”

“But you have known such happiness!  You would trade that for such a mean thing as eternity?”

“You and your sister have made me your fool.  Now, I will have my due.  We shall be handfast and I will live forever.”

Eva looked sadly at Rufus and replied. “Yes.  You will live forever.”  And she bestowed her gift upon him.


The manor was still and silent when he returned.  No stable boys came to claim his reins; no servants greeted him.  The hallways were dark and drafty.  As he approached his rooms, he made out the sound of a woman crying.

In his wife’s chambers, he found Leda.  She sat sobbing and alone, the bed coated in the blood of her womb.  Rufus remembered suddenly the child he so wanted and waited to hear the cries of a newborn.  But they did not come.

He moved nearer the bed. With each step, Rufus felt his heart lightening, and his crimes drifted further away.  A brightness stole into him.

Leda looked up from her hands, and even in her distress, Rufus found himself feeling the reassurance of her presence.

“Your child was delivered dead,” his wife said, and pointed at a crudely wrapped bundle on the bed he had mistaken for soiled linen.  “You will have the unhappy task of burying him, for I am leaving this place.  I thought happiness might turn you from wickedness, but it did not, and now we both have been punished.”

And Leda did leave him.  Where she went, he never knew.  His horses perished; his vineyard shriveled and blew away; he squandered his hard-earned wealth and his manor crumbled around him.  Somewhere still, he toils on in painful regret.

The End


© IReen Weiss 2017



{1809}  I like this fairy tale and how the sisters trick him at first.  

{1569}  Fairy tales are often thought to be “Disney-esque” but they can be dark and tragic too. This is such a tale, but it is very effective.  The writing was clear and engaging and the story was well plotted and paced.  

{1743}  The story is constructed well and moves fluidly from beginning to end.  The mythological aspect is rich and the message, or moral, is apt and tragically rendered–so that the reader may take warning and admonished in their own life and the living of it.  It is a haunting tale.  Congratulations to its author.  



{1809}  I think if you showed how Rufus suffered in the end then it would make your story stronger. Try showing more then telling. I want to read how the horses perished. How did the vineyard shrivel up and blow away? What was his reaction? He could live forever, right? Did he starve everyday? Was he able to see others happy? How did he suffer? Try that and you’ll see many improvements. Happy writing!  

{1569}  Too much of the story was telegraphed rather than foreshadowed. Once the rules were spelled out to Rufus, the rest of the story was given away, too. A little more subtlety might hae worked better.  

{1743}  Try: “rosemary soap which lay beside a steaming bath emitting tendrils of steam.”  Try: “and enjoined his wife to view the splendor she might delight in.”  Try: “the child he so wanted and waited to hear, but the cries of a newborn did not come.”  Make certain that the personalities of both Eva and Leda are made absolutely clear–so that the reader is sure not to confuse the two of them.

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