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Tangwystl the Unwanted

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There are many prisons and many towers but a captured princess must find her own freedom in this fairytale about learning to let go and finding where a place to belong.

Fantasy / Other
Katharine Elmer
5.0 1 review
Age Rating:

Cake, salt water and stone

Today’s cake was quite pretty. White icing twisted atop a golden sponge dotted with purple berries. Merbelles clung sleepily about the edges, their emerald petals nodding along the snowy slopes of a glittering sugar mountain.

‘Matches your eyes,’ grunted Aberfa from the corner.

‘It does,’ agreed Tanny.

Her green eyes sparkled sweetly. Even the white icing swirled and shone like the curls of her silvery hair, while the cake resembled Tanny’s skin: soft and spongy, its golden tone laced with purple veins.

‘Will you wait til I am gone to have it?’ asked Aberfa.

‘Cakes from the faeries should be eaten alone,’ recited Tanny, like a piece of ancient wisdom.

This was routine. When dawn struck the eastern window Aberfa brought food and water. She came again when the sun sank below the window in the west to help Tanny light the candles. And there was cake. The old witch called them “faery cakes”, so Tanny, from the time she was little, had always assumed they came from the faeries. Not that she ever saw faeries, but she read about them. Her three-room tower had many books and Tanny had plenty of time.

Aberfa surrounded the tower with a magical shield which only sun and moon light penetrated. If she sat by a window ledge, Tanny could feel and smell fresh air, but see only a vague hodgepodge of blue, green and gold, like rough stained glass. And by the window ledge she read books, ate cakes and embroidered cloth.

‘Any message from Mother?’ asked Tanny. This too was routine.

‘Not expecting one are you?’ barked Aberfa, her voice like disgruntled sandpaper.

Aberfa said this without malice. She said it as fact. Because Tangwystl, Princess of Caertreath, was unwanted.

Years ago Queen Bregus, stole fruit from Aberfa's sacred tree. The witch promised a curse so powerful the royal family would feel its destruction for nine generations. Offers of riches and power leaked from Bregus' lips. Aberfa ignored them placing a shrivelled hand on her majesty's swollen belly. The child. Give her the babe, and all would be forgiven. When the Queen delivered a girl Bregus named her daughter Tangwystl: “peace offering.” Tanny’s life was a sacrifice her mother had been willing to make.

‘If ever her feet touch Caertreath soil, then cursed be you all.’ Aberfa warned

Witch Aberfa spirited away Princess Tangwystl across the mountains to an impregnable tower atop an island surrounded by a great river. In moments when she felt hard done by Tanny imagined descending the tower, swimming the river and climbing the mountains just to stick her big toe on the castle grounds. Her family deserved a reign of crashing curses!

But a lifetime spent confined with no exercise and daily cake made such fantasy impossible. Tanny would be hard pressed to fit through the window. She was stuck: trapped by her mother’s bargain, trapped by her guardian’s magic, trapped by her own body.

‘No,’ Tanny finally admitted to Aberfa. ‘I am not expecting anything.’

Morning duties complete, Aberfa crawled with enviable dexterity through the tower window’s barricade as if it did not exist, drifted like a feather and landed on the island below. Tanny wondered how she crossed the river. Aberfa often described the dangers of the outside world to discourage her foster daughter from escaping. Fat chance of that, thought Tanny, and she began embroidering emerald merbelles along the hem of a large kirtle.

Tanny usually napped in the afternoon, knowing Aberfa would wake her. Instead of the sharp prod of a bony finger in her soft side, Tanny was aroused by something tickling her nose. She brushed it away. It came back. Half asleep, Tanny grabbed the offender. She held it to the crack of her eyelids then wriggled upright. A delicate orange flower billowed in her palm.

‘Where did you come from?’ she asked. ‘Oh!’ Tanny’s entire bed was festooned with orange flowers lazily drifting through the open window. ‘Nothing comes through the window!’ Tanny shouted at the misbehaving bloom.

She threw the intruder out. Then she screamed. Impossible! Only Aberfa could come and go through the window. Cautiously, Tanny eased her fingers onto the ledge and squinted at the view from her tower for the first time.

Golden sunshine glinted on green river water, which surrounded the tower like a moat. Tanny looked down to the island—not as far away as she had imagined, though still a fair distance. There was a garden with a brown tree releasing orange blossoms into the warm breeze. Tanny sighed against the edge of the window as a red sun set behind the purple mountains. Beautiful.

Sunset gave way to twilight then darkness. Tanny lit the candles alone without Aberfa. Where can she be? The routine never varied. Until now.

The merbelle faery cake sat on the table un-eaten. Will you wait til I am gone to eat it? Tanny picked off the green sugared flowers and popped them into her mouth, chewing thoughtfully. She licked along the icing swirls, thinking. When only naked cake remained, Tanny realised she was in trouble.

Aberfa is never coming back. Aberfa brings food and water every day. Aberfa will not do that anymore.

Trouble. A few provisions remained, but not enough. There was still a jug of water. Tanny knew that was the most important thing. She could probably live cannibalistically off her own stores of fat—but for how long?

Three choices: stay here and die slowly, wait for rescue, or leave the tower. And go where? Home to Caertreath? They didn’t want her. But where else was there? Tanny groaned out of her chair and crossed to the window. Moonlight on pale skin made her ample flesh glow silver.

‘If I stay, I die. This is an inescapable truth. I must make a plan.’

The next morning, Tanny heaved herself onto the window ledge. Stubby legs dangled vertiginously into empty space as she examined the sheer sides of her tower wall. Reddened fingers moved to the knotted fabrics at her round waist. Tanny had never felt so aware of her own size—of just how large and heavy she was. Gravity dared her to test its legal rights.

‘If I stay, I die. This is an inescapable truth.’

She turned and belly flopped across the ledge. Plump fingers dug stubbornly into the window frame, clinging to the only world she had known. Her hand clutched the knotted collection of tapestries, dresses, and embroidered blankets. One end of the twined textiles was secured to her sturdy bed, the other about her sturdy waist. She thrust her feet against the stone tower façade and, after wriggling to un-wedge, Tanny began her descent.

‘It’s working!’ she crowed.

So far. So far... It’s so far!

One question had occupied Tanny’s mind all night. It returned to plague her now: will the rope be long enough? Tanny was half-way down the tower, panting and sweating with effort and fear, when she ran out of tapestry-dress-blanket twine.

‘Stuck,’ she muttered. ‘Trapped on the tower rather than in the tower, but is this really an improvement?’

‘Why not fly down?’ chirped a voice from her shoulder.

Tanny’s heart thumped in surprise. She swayed at the end of her rope. Someone was giving her ridiculous advice.


‘Didn't that witch teach you any tricks?’ snapped the impatient voice in her ear.


The voice became a face and body. At first it looked like another wayward orange flower, but with wings rather than petals. In the centre of the blossoming wings, a slender, naked figure with pistil-like arms and legs and—


Tanny blushed. It was a man. A tiny orange blossom man with wings. A real faery.

‘You going to stare me all day or are you going to sort yourself out?’ he hissed.

‘I’m stuck.’

‘You’re not,’ he fluttered dismissively. ‘Just let go.’

Tanny spluttered a series of incoherent objections. The orange blossom man placed a delicate finger on her spit-glossed lips. She fell silent.

‘You have no wings, Princess Tangwystl,’ he whispered, ‘but there is faery magic in you. It will do you no harm to let go.’ He swooped gracefully down. ‘Let go!’ he called up. The twine about her waist, released. Now all that held Tanny was the strength of her arms.

It will do me no harm to let go.

Tanny closed her eyes and opened her hands. She fell, limbs flailing, curls flapping, and landed on her generous bottom with a bounce. Over a berry patch, through a daisy bed, Tanny finally came to rest against the orange blossom tree.

‘Told you so.’

The orange blossom faery was perched on a low branch. He had grown, appearing now to be the size of a human child. Greenish-brown legs dangled like twigs. Bright wings rested against his bare back.

‘Yes,’ Tanny murmured, breathless from her springing fall. She struggled to her feet, checked for damage, found none. ‘Thank you, err…’


He bowed deeply. Tanny wished he would sit on the branch again. She had only seen naked men in pictures—not that Maddon was a man exactly, but he was male…with strange male parts on display. She blushed.

Maddon examined her closely. ‘There is something faery in you, Tangwystl.’

Tanny shifted self-consciously under her shift. Her gown, cloak and kirtle had been tied about her waist. She wanted badly to cover herself. Maddon made her feel as naked as he was. Tanny rose to retrieve her clothing then collapsed in a wave of dizziness.

‘Easy’ warned Maddon. ‘The world is bigger than you’re used to.’ He ran a soothing hand across her forehead, steadying her. Tanny flinched. She wasn’t accustomed to physical contact.

‘My clothes.’ Tanny leapt up easily, feeling lighter on her feet. Maddon’s doing?

The world is bigger than you’re used to. Bigger. Brighter. Wilder.

As Tanny walked through the flower bed she had bounced across, a flock of daisies rose and circled her, fluttering petal eyelashes. On the ground before her, stones scuttled and bumped clumsily before uncurling like beetles. The Stone Beetlemen waddled along on pebble feet. At her side, lithe figures of women peeled from the barks of trees, shook out leafy heads of hair and joined the parade of strange faeries.

When she reached the pile of her clothing, two willow nymphs threw Tanny’s gown over her head. Dozens of daisy sprites laced her kirtle—rather too tightly. Maddon placed a circlet of flowers on her head.

‘You look as if you belong,’ he admired.


‘Bit of fresh air and exercise in the garden,’ he continued. ‘That gown might fit you in a few moon’s time.’ Tanny ignored the insult.

‘I’m not staying.’

‘Where will you go?’ Maddon sounded offended.



‘My family. Aberfa is dead now. Surely, the curse died with her.’

‘Hmph,’ growled Maddon thoughtfully. ‘You should stay here.’

‘I don’t belong here. I’m not a faery.’

‘You could be.’

Tanny considered the faery creatures. They were graceful, beautiful, delicate and agile—even the stone beetlemen. Tanny was none of these things.

‘I need to find my own people,’ she resolved.

‘They don’t want you,’ protested Maddon.

Tanny shrugged. ‘It’s where I belong.’ She swept a cloak decisively about her shoulders, then paused. ‘May I have a faery cake before I go?’

‘Faery cake?’ Maddon arched his brows, puzzled.

‘Aberfa brought me one every day.’

‘We have fruits, nuts and leaves, but we have no cake.’

Tanny accepted these gratefully—eating a large handful of berries on the spot. They tasted familiar. Sweet juice stained her fingers indigo, the same colour as the veins decorating her body in spidery patterns.

These were in my cakes! But the faeries didn't make them. Tanny puzzled.

‘Caertreath lies that way.’ Maddon gestured toward a mountain range west of the river. I would help, but I cannot leave the garden. If you are determined to find your people, the selkies on the shore might help you cross.’ He emphasised the word: might. Maddon, body the size of a butterfly, spread his wings and gently kissed Tanny’ forehead. ‘There is something faery in you, Princess Tangwystl. Remember that.’

The selkies were not difficult to find. Two dozen of them, all female, were in various states of human/animal transformation swimming in the river, sun bathing on the rocks, paddling along the shore. Selkies were not delicate, graceful faeries. They were a different kind of beautiful: tall, muscular women with tanned bodies that glistened wetly, as if polished. Tanny perceived little difference between their human skin and their seal hides. The transition was gradual and not always consistent. One selkie waded through the shallows on legs, but made patterns in the water with flippered arms.

‘Princess Tangwystl,’ she greeted, swiftly sprouting arms and hands, as if partial transformation was a sign of bad manners. This appeared to be her only understanding of modesty. Does all the world go naked?

‘I wish to cross the river, please,’ requested Tanny

‘What lies beyond the river for you?’ asked the selkie dubiously.

‘My home: Caertreath.’

‘Home is a place where you are wanted,’ challenged the selkie.

‘Home is where you come from,’ Tanny defended. The seal woman considered her thoughtfully.

‘The way is difficult, Princess. You may cross our river, but the mountains are far more treacherous.’

‘Maybe I shall find friends to help me.’ Tanny met the seal woman’s shifting dark gaze with her steady green one. Finally, the selkie smiled.

‘My name is Seirian. Do you swim, Princess?’

‘No.’ Aberfa provided a wooden tub for bathing, but it was no bigger than its purpose required. ‘And I don’t usually bathe in my clothes.’

‘Nor should you swim in them,’ giggled Seirian. Tanny un-fastened her kirtle and wriggled out of her gown. She paused trembling. It would be silly to get her shift wet before her journey had even begun. Tanny swallowed hard, hastily shed her shift and charged naked into the water.

If descending the tower had made Tanny truly aware of her weight, then swimming the selkies’ river made her utterly forget it. The water embraced, cradled and supported her. She bobbed and bubbled, buoyed by the body that had always tied her down. It meant nothing now. She was ripples on the current. Her splashing giggles drew the attention of several other shining and firm-bodied seal women, who playfully swapped form until she was surrounded by slickly tanned bodies, like a vortex of the loveliest whirlpool.

‘Not a swimmer?’ laughed Seirian. Her strong, sleek tail propelled her in eddies around Tanny. ‘You look as if you were born in the water.’ Her seal sisters echoed the sentiment in tuneful chorus.

‘Perhaps I was,’ panted Tanny delightedly, paddling toward a large rock for a rest. The selkie pulled herself up beside Tanny with muscular golden-brown arms and gave the young woman a long, hard look.

‘There is something of the selkie in you,’ pronounced Seirian with certainty, as if commenting on the existence of Tanny’s nose.

‘I am no selkie,’ scoffed Tanny.

‘No,’ agreed the seal woman. ‘But, you are no true human either.’

‘Maddon said I was part faery. Now you say I am selkie. Everyone wants to claim me,’ Tanny pondered gloomily. Because she knew it was untrue.

They lay on the rock in silence for several moments. Tanny waved her legs idly in the water, enjoying the weightlessness, then looked out to the western shore where a large waterfall crashed through a gorge in the mountains, filling the river with white foam.

‘I thought selkies lived in the sea,’ questioned Tanny.

‘Our river feeds the sea,’ explained Seirian. Tanny looked toward the waterfall pouring from the mountain.

‘Don't you mean the sea feeds—’

‘Our river feeds the sea,’ Seirian insisted.

Tanny looked more closely. The waterfall ran backwards. The contents of the selkies' river was indeed flowing up through the gorge. It gathered itself in a billowing crest of hydro-powered spray before thrusting upward to the mountains.

‘How?’ Tanny puzzled.

‘Selkie magic,’ Seirian winked. She cupped a handful of water between tanned fingers and poured it into Tanny's thirsty mouth. It sparkled sweetly across her tongue, but also tasted faintly of salt.

‘Aberfa brought me water from your river,’ realised Tanny. ‘And the green flowers growing by the shoreline. Merbelles.’

‘We allowed the witch to take from us in exchange for certain services,’ explained Seirian with haughty dignity.

‘I drank from the selkies' river every day of my life,’ Tanny pondered. And the cake. Berries from the faery garden and merbelles from the selkie river.

‘Something of the selkie in you, Tangwystl,’ Seirian intoned, rubbing a slick thumb across Tanny's salt wet lips. ‘If you stayed with us, you would grow strong. You would shine if you sealed yourself to us.’

Seal myself to you? Stay with the selkies. Become a selkie...

Tanny thought about that. She was certainly more graceful in the water than on the land. But strong? Shining? Tanned and sleek? Tanny was none of these things.

‘I belong with my own people,’ Tanny resolved.

Seirian nodded gravely, disappointed, but accepting. ‘I cannot leave the river, but if you are determined, the trolls of the mountains might help you cross. The river will carry you up to them.’

Clinging to her rock, Tanny looked to the water rushing violently through the gorge. It did not look safe. ‘How—’

'Just let go.’ Seirian back-flipped off the rock ledge and swam to the edge of the foamy riot swimming at the base of the water rise. ‘Princess Tangwystl,’ Seirian called back. ‘It will do you no harm to let go!’

It will do me no harm to let go.

Tanny closed her eyes and opened her arms. She let the water pull her buoyant body along. Harder and harder it pulled, floating her faster and faster toward the anti-gravity water fall. Tanny couldn't decide if falling down or falling up was more terrifying. Gravity was a powerful thing. The water twirled, tossed and dipped her in a rapid dance.

It deposited her on a grassy bank, studded with sharp stones. Tanny struggled to haul herself onto dry land. Hard hands grasped her soft wrists, lifting her easily to her feet. She sputtered and shook herself, then looked up to meet the trollman's gaze.

In Tanny's books, trolls were large, lumbering, stupid creatures. This one was twice her size—a towering brute indeed. But his granite body was elegantly carved and his features were handsome. A square, chiselled jaw framed a face set with calm, grey eyes over ridged cheek bones. Tanny was relieved to see he was wearing clothes: a belted leather tunic flapped at his knees over furred leggings and what looked like a hand-knitted jumper. She was the naked one now.

‘This her?’ gravelled the trollman’s voice.

He grasped Tanny’s wrists again and swung her like a rag doll, setting her onto a rocky shelf thrusting out from a grassy slope. She shivered and pulled her long, silvery curls about her bare body.

‘Aye,’ reverberated a higher voice from over his shoulder.

Tanny felt sharp jabs against her dangling legs. ‘She’s squishy,’ piped a rough but girlish voice.

‘She’s wet,’ chirped a second one near Tanny’s knee.

‘Ger’off,’ warned the trollman. Two cracks echoed like colliding boulders as he slapped away the small fingers bruising her soft flesh.

‘Oww, Pedr,’ whined the smaller voices. ‘Ma, make him stop!’

Two little trolls kicked at their father or possibly older brother’s legs. Pedr cheerfully placed a massive hand on their foreheads, holding them at considerable arm’s length. When they could no longer kick him, he laughed deeply at their frustration. Older brother.

‘Oiy!’ barked a trollwife, every bit as large as Pedr. She shoved at Pedr’s massive head which knocked him off-balance. Both trollings launched themselves onto Pedr in a playful tackle that shook the mountain. The trollwife, obviously their mother, threw a colossal handful of pebbles at her squabbling children.

Tanny smiled at the raucous laughter rolling off the stone siblings. Then her smile widened and exploded into a genuine giggle—her first. Tanny covered her mouth in surprised embarrassment, but could not hold it in. Her laughter scattered like scree across the rocky landscape. It fascinated the trolls, who stopped wrestling to listen, their crevice eyes wide. Then, the troll family stood straight as peaks, addressing her respectfully.

‘Princess Tangwystl,’ greeted Ma. ‘Aberfa expected you to pass through here. I am Idris. These are my children Pedr, Bryn and Grwyn.’ She introduced her eldest son, then the younger boy and smallest daughter, who was only slightly larger than Tanny.

Tanny nodded, teeth chattering. Idris cloaked her in a gown of green moss. It felt soft and warm and slightly furry.

‘Are you the trolls of these mountains?’

‘Aye. The Rhinog family mind the hills across the way.’ Idris gestured to a series of summits stabbing the southern horizon. Hills?

‘Aberfa expected me to come?’

‘Aye,’ Pedr butted in. ‘Witch thought you might search for your home. Someday.’ There was an edge to his voice. ‘Dunno why you’d bother,’ added Pedr. His words fell like a landslide.

‘They’re my family,’ responded Tanny stoutly.

‘S’not a family,’ argued Pedr. ‘Think we’d leave Grwyn here to the mercy of a sorceress just cause she’s a titchy pebble of a thing?’

His sister grumbled a complaint. Pedr ruffled his fingers fondly through her flint-coloured hair. Grwyn’s scowl crumbled into a grin as she smacked his hand away.

‘Mother had no choice,’ protested Tanny.

‘No choice?’ Idris grunted in disgust.

The princess wanted to argue, plead her mother’s case but when her soft green eyes met the troll family’s stony gazes, Tanny’s throat seized shut. No curse could splinter the bonds of this family. They would fight for each other, no matter the consequence. For the first time, Tanny wondered why she was on this quest. Why return to a place you are unwanted? Why risk your life for a family that rejected you?

‘The way through our mountains is treacherous,’ warned Idris. ‘Are you certain you will find what you’re looking for on the other side?’

‘It’s the only home I have now,’ Tanny concluded. Idris shrugged boulder-like shoulders and sighed.

‘If you are determined to see this through, we will help.’

Idris led the way followed by Bryn, Grwyn then Tanny. Pedr brought up the rear, in case Tanny slipped or struggled. But she felt surprisingly sure-footed as she picked her way along the knife-edged arête. Her fingers, so nimble with a needle, found holds in unlikely places. Her heaviness weighted her. She felt rooted as the mountain itself.

‘You understand these rocks well.’ chuckled Pedr admiringly.

‘Do I?’ Tanny looked carefully at the stone beneath her fingers and feet. It seemed familiar: the feel of it, the texture, the colour. ‘My tower!’ she exclaimed. ‘My tower was made of this stone! I have lived in it all my life!’

‘Something of the troll in you!’ declared Pedr triumphantly.

At the summit, Tanny stood tall. Height held no fear for her. She had grown up with altitude. Stiff wind whipped back her silver curls and pressed the moss green gown tightly against her body. She breathed in the crisp mountain air with unrestrained pleasure. Pedr stared at her.

‘You belong here,’ he observed. He stood just below her, nearly the same height. ‘You’re like a snow cap: pale and shining and beautiful.’

Beautiful? The faeries were beautiful. The selkies were beautiful. But Tanny? Pedr thought so. He stroked her trembling cheek gently with a steady fingertip. Her frozen skin melted under his touch.

‘Stay with us,’ he offered.

‘I don’t belong here. I am no troll. I am too soft.’

‘You’re harder than you think,’ he whispered. ‘Why not stay where you are wanted?’

‘I must finish what I started,’ Tanny explained with regret. He wrapped his arms around her, swaying her resolve. ‘Come with me?’ she suggested.

‘I would,’ he moaned, ‘but I cannot leave my mountain.’ They remained, statue-like, in a long embrace, like a lover’s monument. Idris’ voice broke them apart.

‘Caertreath lies through that pass.’ Tanny gazed down at a golden valley which spread from the mountain’s foot, rippling grain fingers pointing toward a sparkling sea.

‘Long way down,’ sighed Tanny. She gripped Pedr’s arm tightly, as if she could already feel herself slipping away.

‘It’s easy,’ he assured her. Pedr led her to the crest of a mountain track. ‘Watch,’ he grinned.

Like a diver on a ledge the trollman perched. He tucked his head, threw himself off and rolled down the mountain. Tanny chewed her knuckles to keep from screaming. Surely, he would crash! But Pedr’s large body steered deftly through the rocky terrain. He stretched his legs to stop himself halfway down, bounced to his feet and shouted up to her.

‘There is something of the troll in you, Princess Tangwystl! Believe me! It will do you no harm. Just let go!’ He waved encouragingly.

It will do me no harm to let go. I bounced from the tower. I floated up the river. Now, I shall roll down the mountain. Tanny closed her eyes and opened her feet. She stepped off the edge.

Though the wind roared in her ears, she heard Pedr’s exultant cheer as she sped past. Sure hands guided her descent. Soft body protected her from sharp rocks and rough hedges. Pedr rolled behind, and her exhilaration exploded. Laughter burst from her lips again—unleashed from the very centre of her. Princess Tangwystl the Unwanted was having fun!

When they reached the bottom, Pedr could go no further. He allowed Tanny a moment to catch her breath before catching her in his arms and kissing her farewell.

‘Find what you’re seeking, then find me.’

‘I will,’ she promised.

From a distance the valley of barley had looked beautiful. Up close, it appeared dried up, unfruitful, dead. No grain had been harvested here for some time. Tanny ran her fingers through the crisp stalks, expecting to feel…what? A glowing sense of belonging? A churn of memory? She did not. This place felt no more home-like than the faery garden or the selkie river or the troll mountain.

Tanny leapt over a salty stream—the final stretch of the selkie river flowing narrowly into the sea. She followed it. Caertreath was a castle by the sea. As she walked on, the vegetation grew sparser and browner. There should be people—tenants of the land and castle. There was no one. No Caertreath, no family, no home. Only a dead and empty place.


On a small hill over-looking a barren cliff top, there grew a glorious tree. Its mighty branches dripped with exotic looking fruits that sparkled seductively under their vibrant colours. These fruits looked dangerous. Could this be the tree from which Queen Bregus had stolen forbidden fruit? The tree that changed Tanny’s life? A square slab of stone, half-buried in dead grasses, snuggled at the base of the trunk. Tanny knelt down to read the poetic inscription etched on its grey surface.

Here lieth mighty Caertreath, proud family forgotten.

Walls once strong fell ruinous and fertile lands fell rotten.

Queen Bregus’ theft, a curse unleashed, nine generations stained,

Touch not the sacred fruit, stranger, lest death find you again.

Above her head, tempting fruits winked with innocent deception and Tanny thought she understood the truth of her life. Aberfa had not prevented the enchanted tree’s curse. That began the moment Bregus touched the forbidden fruit. The witch knew she could not stop it when she asked for the baby princess. Witch Aberfa rescued Princess Tangwystl from sharing her family’s fate, and, while the curse ran its nine-generation course, Tanny survived, protected in Aberfa’s tower.

‘She didn’t steal me. She saved me. She kept me safe.’ Silently Tanny gazed upon the ruin of what must have once been a beautiful place.

‘Nine generations,’ Tanny whispered. ‘If the curse ran its course then I was in that tower for…’

Tanny choked back a sob. She hadn’t cried since childhood when crying was simply a way to tell someone what you wanted. Wanted… I was wanted.ere

Tanny leant against the roots of the scared tree. Tears trickled down her pale, round cheek. An orange blossom fluttered onto her soft shoulder. Aberfa fed me cakes made of faery fruit. She looked eastward to the sea. A tanned, glossy tail flipped in the surf. Aberfa quenched me with water from the selkie river. She turned westward. A blazing sun settled behind the mountain peaks. Aberfa built me a tower of troll stone.

‘She wanted to protect me. She wanted to give me what I would need to make my way here. She wanted me.’

Tanny smiled and let the tears fall over her face. I was wanted. Now what do I want? She looked around the site of her former home and had her answer. Tanny wanted a tower of troll stone with a faery garden by a selkie shore

‘Only this time,’ she vowed, ‘it will have stairs and doors and many, open windows.’

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