I get that I’m ugly, OK. Even my mother couldn’t bear to look at me. She did her best, mind, fed me and clothed me, tried to keep me from the prying eyes of the village. But she never once actually looked me in the face, not that I remember. And I guess the shame of having produced such a horror as me got to her in the end because one day she just upped and died in her sleep. Village priest took me in for a while, but there were whispers, first that she’d done away with herself because of me and then, when that wasn’t enough, they started saying that I’d done her in. Priest told me he didn’t think he could protect me from them. He gave me a gold coin and a slice of bread and sent me off out of the back door just as the mob appeared at the front. Seven years old I was, ugly as sin and all alone in the world.
Obviously I’ve had to learn a few tricks along the way to survive. I’ve apprenticed myself to thieves and sorcerers and craftsmen, proved my worth ten times over and still, they’ve sighed with relief when I decided it was time to be on my way. Don’t imagine for a moment that any woman has given me a thought beyond a desire to flee from my company. I’m under no illusions about women. Dogs on the other hand, they don’t judge. Be nice to a dog and it’ll be nice right back. I’ve had a good few dogs.
To be honest, you’d think I’d have learned by now not to go about expecting people to think well of me. So when I was passing by the palace and I heard this girl wailing, the sensible thing to do would have been to move on and let someone else deal with it. But for all that’s happened to me, I’m a kind-hearted soul. No one else seemed to be rushing to her aid, so, I stepped in – literally, right through the wall, little trick a sorcerer taught me.
When she’d stopped gawping and cowering in fear, I managed to get the girl to explain what the problem was. She’d got herself in a pickle, this girl, had to spin a heap of straw into gold or else the king was going to kill her. Well, that was no problem for me so I set to work and did the job while she sat huddled in the far corner of the room.
Here’s the thing – I’d have liked a bit of gratitude. I’d saved her from death after all. Just a simple ‘thank you’ would have done. But the girl stared at the heap of gold and then looked at me for just a moment before her eyes flicked back to the gold. Not a word of thanks. She just said, “What do you want from me?”
I went away with her necklace but I’ll be back tomorrow. Once the king sees that all that gold he’s bound to want more. And I’m intrigued. The girl hasn’t got a lot left to bargain with. What’s she going to offer when she runs out of jewellery?